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Why Voice conversation won’t end

Victorian State Parliament
The proposal to enshrine a Voice to parliament in the constitution was defeated despite the establishment of state-based Voices. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

The crushing defeat of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum could risk further uncertainty for the future of state and territory-based Voices to parliament.

Indigenous advisory bodies are not new in Australia with some states and territories having already established, or are working towards the implementation of, Indigenous-led bodies informing the creation of Indigenous policy.

Indeed, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have already established democratically elected bodies to make representations to parliament from Indigenous peoples.

But the future of South Australia First Nations Voice to Parliament, which has recently become the first Australian state to legislate the establishment of a Voice faces further opposition, with the state’s Liberal opposition renewing pressure on the state’s government to explain why a state-based Voice is required.

The South Australian parliament legislated the creation of a First Nations Voice to Parliament in March. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

“South Australians have voted clearly against a Voice to Parliament and it’s now up to [Premier] Peter Malinauskas to explain where to from here,” South Australian Opposition Leader David Speirs said on Sunday.

The South Australian Liberals opposed the First Nations Voice to Parliament proposal when it passed the state’s parliament earlier this year.

On Saturday, the state overwhelmingly rejected the push to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to the parliament in the constitution, with approximately 36 per cent of voters supporting the proposal.

The defeat comes despite the Prime Minister campaigning heavily for a Voice to Parliament in the state, visiting more than five times during the referendum campaign.

Victoria and the ACT have already established legislated Indigenous assemblies in their jurisdictions. Picture Credit – Blake Byron Smit
Victoria and the ACT have already established legislated Indigenous assemblies in their jurisdictions. Picture Credit – Blake Byron Smit

The Queensland government has also taken steps to create a state-based Voice, after the Palaszczuk government announced the creation of an Indigenous committee that would explore the creation of a new advisory body in for the sunshine state.

In NSW, where the Voice proposal was similarly defeated with just four in every 10 voters supporting the proposed constitutional alteration, there are no formal plans to progress a state-based Voice to Parliament.

However, in September the NSW premier Chris Minns said he was open to Voice to Parliament, or similar advisory body, in his state as other jurisdictions progressed treaty processes.

YES 23
The Voice referendum was resoundingly defeated when it went to the polls. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / Monique Harmer

“I don’t want to put preconceived ideas on it,” he said at the time.

“When you’ve got an active, engaged group, like First Nations Australians, you can’t treat them as a homogeneous group. That first year [of consultation] is really important.”

Tasmania and Western Australia have no formal plans to establish similar advisory bodies.

If successful, the proposal would have created a constitutionally entrenched advisory body with no power of veto, meaning a future government would not be able to abolish it without holding a second referendum.