The Hon Linda Burney MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians
The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Senator The Hon Malarndirri McCarthy
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 30 MARCH 2023
SUBJECT: Voice to Parliament.
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: Thank you all for coming this morning. This is truly history in the making. Today with the introduction of the Constitution Alteration Bill, we are one step closer to making history. One step closer to making history. One step closer to creating a Voice, that makes sure the voices of our people are heard. One step closer to improving lives with a Voice that make a difference. One step closer to moving Australia forward for everyone. This referendum is not about politicians. And it's not about lawyers. It's about the Australian people having a say. Having a say in the future of our country, having a say, so that we can recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our founding document. The people you see behind me, make me proud. They make me strong and I want to recognise all of them. They are members of the Referendum Engagement Group. More than 60 members representing communities across the width and the breadth of this vast land. They have an important role in guiding government ahead of the referendum later this year. They are here today to say a simple word - Yes. Yes to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Yes to constitutional recognition. Yes to a Voice to the parliament. Now, of course, there will always be those that seek to hold us back. Those doubters, those wreckers, they want to hold Australia back. Well, we want to take Australia forward. We want to take Australia for more united, more hopeful and more reconciled than ever before. Thank you.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, SENATOR MALARNDIRRI McCARTHY: Thank you, Minister Burney. And we take this opportunity to acknowledge that we are on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, but also to our elders across Australia, who guided us, who guided Linda and certainly Senator Pat Dodson, and myself, and also the First Nations caucus who are present here with the engagement group. This is an opportunity in Australia, to look at what is hopeful for our future. And to do it, and walk it with a great deal of respect and openness, a tolerance and a patience. Because it is a journey. It's not just a journey for this Engagement Group. It's a journey for our country, and our place in the world. A journey where we can walk together with respect. And I do ask all Australians to acknowledge that this is an historic moment in our history. And we can be a better country and we can be a united one. And it's how we walk together with that respect and tolerance on this journey, which we are a testament to our country and to all Australians.
PAT ANDERSON: This is where we're up to now after a very, very long journey. Pretty much not long after 1788. When generations of us after generation after generation has stood somewhere like this pleading, trying to educate, trying to cajole that we exist, we're here, this is our place. I've been I've been working since I was 15. I worked mainly in Aboriginal organisations and been the CEO of many. And you know, every time there's a change of government we have to all troop to Canberra. First of all, to justify and explain who we are and sometimes to bring a map, to show where we've come from, and explain all again, why we need to maintain the funds that we have. So we can provide the services that our communities and our families desperately need. Me and those for after me, won't have to do that ever again. And the system has changed to accommodate our needs. So we can really get down to the disadvantage that continues and continues on and on. There has to be a stop here. And this is it and it will able to make all of us, be able to make better decisions and target better a whole lot better where those desperate resources are needed. So we don't have decades of more of close the gap as brief example. But there's a whole range of things that some of you will know that's happening in our communities and has been happening for a long time. It's all downstream stuff, because it’s the stops way that we are often not respected, but still have to do the work, because our families and our communities rely on us. So that's where we are. This has been a really momentous, last week was really tough, really hard work. What we've got, this was fantastic. We've worked really close everyone the whole team was really tight. And today, we've just taken it one step further as a Minister, has just said, so. But yes, there's nowhere else to go. But we've got to have the bare arses on the barbed wire.
SALLY SCALES: For me, the work that we've been doing here is just a continuation of the incredible legacy of my leadership, my Elders on the grounds of just existing and surviving in our remote communities to what we did at Uluru. You know, I do want to give acknowledge to Sammy Wilson, the Traditional Owner of Uluru who gave the name for the Uluru Statement, and that incredible leadership on the ground. As Pat has said, you know, we've always had to justify ourselves, but we have to remember that the Uluru Statement was given to everyday people. It was given to everyday Australians, so they could recognise their power, in what we're trying to do. So it's about all of us Australians coming together, because it's about my community and every single First Nations communities continuing to survive, and also thrive. So take your own power and vote and be with us because invitation’s been given to you, thank you.
NATHAN APPO: Thank you. First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land that we have gathered on today. I pay my respects to Elder's past, present and emerging. My name is Nathan Appo, I’m a Mamu man from Innisfail in far north Queensland, with links to Goreng Goreng and Bundjalung country, and I reside in beautiful Meanjin in Brisbane. What an historic occasion to be here, representing my people representing my family, my elders, and being able to speak here today. Being in Brisbane, our people are living in poverty in an urban area, and they need a voice. This is why I'm here today. It's easy, it's simple. We need recognition, we need a voice to Parliament. We've seen over years and years of changing the government, how we've always had to travel down, fight for funding just to exist. So I'm here representing my people, understanding we have a long road ahead of us. But this is just the next step in what we want to achieve. For our people for our elders. My mother has always told me we have this responsibility to leave this earth and leave this place in a better shape than we found it. And we're here that's what we're, what we're here for, it’s what we're trying to do. We have a legacy we need to uphold,
and for our children. I've been in Brisbane, far north Queensland those people need voices. We’re the second largest Indigenous community population in Australia. By 2030, we're going to have a largest Indigenous community population in Australia, so they need voices. And that's why we're here. Thank you.
TYRONNE GARSTONE: I come from the Kimberly's. We've come a long way to be here today. It's a momentous occasion. For far too long. We've seen, we've been living in despair. Today gives us some hope. For far too long we've seen policies and programs and the laws being developed for us without us. Today the Voice gives us an opportunity to really impart our knowledge about programs and basically being able to create them, wo that they are aligned to the values and the cultural needs of what we need in the local regions. There's a lot of work that still needs to be happen, the Voice isn't going to be the magic bullet that's going to solve everything, but it's a step in the right direction. And the people from the Kimberly come today to air their voices to support what's been happening.
SELWYN BUTTON: Morning, everyone, my name is Selwyn Button. I’m a Gungarri man from western Queensland, I grew up in a small community called Cherbourg, which is a former mission in Queensland, about three hours northwest of Brisbane, I didn't think I was going to be speaking, so I’m a bit surprised. But the work that we're doing, and the important events that have taken place today, in the introduction of the Bill to Parliament is a significant step. It's a significant milestone. It's a long journey. It's taken a long time. And it's recognition of the work that Pat Anderson and Megan Davis have been involved in for a long time to get it to this point. They have been absolutely giants. So I want to pay recognition for all the work that they’ve done to get us to this point. We now have the bill, it's been tabled, there’s a process in place to go through now, in order to have a conversation with the Australian public, we know what the question is going to look like, we know what the clause looks like. It’s now having the discussion and part of our work as the Engagement Group is to get out into our local communities and have the conversation with people and start having those discussions about some of those real life examples. My family that still lives in Cherbourg, my family in Brisbane, I have family all over Queensland, it's about getting out and talking to them, the important discussions that we have in our own communities to make sure our own mob understand the work we're doing and understand the need for voice and understand the impact that we can make. But it's also been about having those tabletop discussions in the workplace, at the local footy club, at your local bowls club, it's getting into those places now as well. And that's the work that we will be doing is ensuring that we can equip the Engagement Group and the rest of the Australian public with a couple of those simple messages. How do we get those simple cut through messages to make sure that people understand the need for this, why we’re doing it and what's the important aspects that we think are going to happen as a result of the creation of the Voice. It's important to keep those discussions going. And that's really what we want to do. It's taking it away from the house. The house has done a good job by introducing the bill. So now we take it away from the house, we take it to the Australian public, we put it at the kitchen table, we put at the local pub, we put it in the local footy club, and now start having the conversation to look at what does this look like? Let's answer the questions, have the discussion, have the dialogue, and make sure we can build momentum around knowing exactly what we want to do and by the end of the year, we work towards a successful yes vote. So thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: A question for you Minister and maybe someone from the Referendum Working Group if they’d like to speak as well. What did you take from only being a handful of Coalition members in the chamber for the reading this morning and Peter Dutton noticeably absent?
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: Today is about the legislation that the Attorney-General introduced. I didn't take much notice of what was going on, on the other side. That's their decision. What I do know is that the government is absolutely all in on this. The Engagement Group has is meeting in Canberra today. And our work is about going out, convincing Australia that recognition and consultation is what the Voice is about.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the bill is going off to committee for the next few weeks. The Opposition has been raising quite a few questions about how the Voice would interact with the Executive. How open is your government to actually considering any amendments before the bill gets (inaudible)
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: The process from here on in every one is that the legislation that was introduced by the Attorney General today, will go off to a committee, a Joint Select Committee for six weeks. It will report on the 15th of May and we will then debate in both houses the legislation. The important thing is, and the government is very open and sees the committee process is absolutely crucial in terms of people having a say about the legislation. There will clearly be a report provided. And we'll take it from there once that report is provided.
JOURNALIST: Minister the government has also put aside some funds for a civics education campaign, when do you expect that to begin and what might it look like?
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: So there is money set aside for a civics, a neutral, neutral civics education campaign. We hope that that will begin sometime in May. And that is about making sure that the Australian community, right across Australia understands that we have a constitution, how you change the constitution, what a referendum is and, of course, the importance of this referendum. But I stress it will be a neutral civics education campaign, and it will be rolled out across Australia.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Dreyfus, there was an interesting shift in your language in your speech today, in terms of what the Voice could advise on. You said that it is matters where Indigenous Australians are affected differently to other members of the community. What kinds of issues would that entail? And what's behind that shift in language?
ATTORNEY GENERAL, MARK DREYFUS: The Voice will be an independent advisory body to advise the parliament and the government on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That's it. It's that simple.
JOURNALIST: How do you convince people who don't support the voice. Is there one cut through message you can give to them, to win them over?
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: This is about two things. It's about completing our nation's birth certificate, by recognising the extraordinary history, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bring to this country. That is everyone's heritage - 65,000 years. The second message is that every single person in this country would acknowledge that the life outcomes for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in this country are completely unacceptable. The Voice will be in the parliament, or I should say the Voice will be available to the parliament to make sure that we can move the dial on totally unacceptable social justice outcomes. They're the two messages, recognition and consultation. And there's nothing to fear.
JOURNALIST: Thanks, Minister, how significant a change to the campaign is the lack of bipartisanship here. Is it harder to convince people if the opposition hasn’t backed?
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, LINDA BURNEY: There is enormous hope that the Opposition will come on board and provide bipartisanship. But I think the Prime Minister was very clear last Thursday in his press conference, where he was asked, are there any circumstances where this vote will not be put? He said, No. This is going to happen for our country. This is about all of us in this first conference, it's about all the people that will be watching this press conference, it is about imagining what it's going to be like, on the Sunday after referendum day where we'll walk taller and prouder and more united as a country. Thank you all very much.