The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition acknowledges the long history of advocacy for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
As Co-Chairs, we have understood the requirement for this Committee to find common ground and seek a way forward on the options and issues considered and reflected in the work of the Expert Panel, the former Joint Select Committee, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the Referendum Council.
We support constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a part of the broader project of reconciliation and recognition of their unique status in our nation.
We understand the frustration about the length of time taken to advance these issues. However, we also note that the Uluru Statement from the Heart represents a major change in the direction of the debate on constitutional recognition with its proposals for a Voice, agreement making, and truth-telling.
The primary task of this Committee is to consider and develop proposals for constitutional recognition, including The Voice. The range of views about what The Voice might look like means that this is not a simple task.
We have listened closely to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Discussion has highlighted that the majority of day to day challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not fall within the ambit of the national Parliament. Many of the solutions to these challenges are at the local and regional level.
These solutions need to be found through close political and fiscal cooperation between Commonwealth, state and territory, and regional bodies. Consequently, to be effective, any voice proposal will need to have local, regional, and national elements.
Throughout our inquiry, we have asked for people’s proposals and ideas on what that Voice might look like, and how it might best work with the Commonwealth Parliament, the Australian Government, the states and territories, local authorities, and existing organisations.
We have also considered suggestions for agreement making and truth-telling. We look to further comment on the appropriateness of the term Makarrata and how culturally this process might help us achieve reconciliation.
This interim report indicates our progress to date and outlines what we will be doing next. It sets out key areas of inquiry, asking specific questions on what a Voice could strive for and how it could be designed. It acknowledges that whatever form future proposals may take, a Voice must be legitimate, representative, and agreed between the Parliament and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Design questions regarding constitutional and/or legislative change remain before us. The Committee recognises that the Australian public and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples may have differing views on the need for a Voice and whether that Voice should be given a constitutional guarantee.
We encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community to make submissions examining the principles and models outlined in Chapters 3 and 4 and addressing the questions we pose in Chapter 7.
We are hopeful that the next round of consultations might help the Committee to refine models which might form the basis for a process of deep consultations between the Australian Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in every community across the country, in order to ensure that the detail of The Voice and related proposals are authentic for each community across Australia.
On behalf of the Committee, we would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who has worked with us to this point, and we look forward to their ongoing guidance and assistance as we continue this important journey.
Senator Patrick DodsonMr Julian Leeser MP