By CEO Natasha Rae
The Voice to Parliament has been approached with the standard debates and misinformation of most political issues. But in this case, a Voice is not a political issue – it’s a human rights issue.
A First Nations Voice wouldn’t stand to create division, empower one side of politics over another, or tilt the balance of democracy. It would stand as a nonpartisan body that represents the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – endorsed by Australia in 2009 – recognises that Indigenous Peoples should have the right to participate in decision-making in matters that would affect their rights. Equally, governments should consult with Indigenous Peoples before making laws that affect them.
Australia has acknowledged the rights of First Nations Peoples in both domestic and international law for decades. These rights include the right to self-determination, representation and self-governance, participation in decisions that directly impact them, and freedom from racial discrimination.
The Voice is an important tool for upholding these rights and improving outcomes for First Nations Peoples.
For too long, laws and policies have been created without the consultation and agreement of First Nations Peoples, resulting in systems and structures that are harmful and ineffective.
First Nations Peoples and their Elders and Leaders maintain resistance to oppression while unwilling to incur greater losses. They strive to maintain cultural integrity and find ways to work together to transform structures and mindsets to experience more than just survival.
First Nations Peoples have contributed to the building blocks and history of our economic and social system. Yet, this same system has caused the vast majority of First Nations Peoples to remain outside of opportunities afforded to other Australians.
The most essential role of laws is to serve the rights, safety, opportunities, and interests of those they apply to. Unfortunately, laws created without proper representation can so often do the opposite.
Throughout Australian history, a lack of representation and input has contributed to many laws that have had devastating impacts on First Nations communities; impacts that have caused ongoing generational trauma and pain felt throughout First Nations communities today.
A First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by the Constitution is a crucial step toward addressing this harm for a fairer and more healing future.
International guidance shows establishing representative systems to allow First Nations Peoples to advise on decisions that impact them is consistent with international law and international human rights standards.
As the Prime Minister highlighted in a recent radio interview, Australia is the only colony or former colony on earth that doesn’t recognise our First Peoples in our founding document.
A Voice to Parliament is our opportunity to do that after 122 years.
RAQ stands firmly for the inclusion, equity, social justice, and human rights of all, regardless of age, race, culture, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We have no religious or political allegiances and respect the rights of everyone to live with dignity and safety.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission has also released a statement in support of establishing a First Nations Voice to Parliament, saying:
“A Voice to Parliament is consistent with international human rights standards, and would provide for better human rights protections by promoting equality and self-determination for First Nations people.”
Reconciliation Australia announced a union of 70 for-profit and not-for-profit organisations have shown their unified support for a “yes” vote in the Referendum, including some of the country’s biggest corporations.
The variety of organisations supporting The Voice to Parliament shows this transcends political perspectives.
It’s a human right for First Nations Peoples to have a say in the matters that impact them.
It’s crucial that we keep the best interests and rights of First Nations Peoples top of mind when determining our vote in the referendum on 14 October.
And it’s crucial that we understand how a future without a First Nations Voice will continue to impact this country’s – and the world’s – oldest living culture.
We understand this topic and related conversations may raise difficult emotions for some people. Help is available.
RAQ offers culturally safe counselling and support services for First Nations Peoples. You can call 1300 364 277 to make an appointment or get help finding the right support for you.
For 24/7 crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 13YARN on 13 92 76 to talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.
You can read the Statement from RAQ’s First Nations Employees on The Voice Referendum here.