Featured News Panel to shed light on Voice to Parliament

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Thu, 1 Jun 2023

Panel to shed light on Voice to Parliament

JCU Reconciliation Artwork - Copyright Kassandra Savage
Coming Together and Respecting Difference Kassandra Savage (2014) [artwork detail] JCU Art Collection

An engaging, in-depth discussion on what the Indigenous Voice to Parliament will mean from a social, political and community perspective will take place at James Cook University this Friday.

Held as part of National Reconciliation Week, the Voice to Parliament Community Event will feature Principal Research Fellow at JCU’s Indigenous Education and Research Centre Associate Professor Sana Nakata, University of New South Wales Pro Vice Chancellor Society Scientia Professor and Uluru Dialogue Co-Chair Professor Megan Davis, and Mayor of Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council Cr Ross Andrews.

Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Senior Associate, Indigenous Outcomes and former JCU student Ben Gertz will facilitate the panel discussion at JCU’s Bebegu Yumba Campus in Townsville.

Associate Prof Nakata, whose research focuses on Indigenous policy, governance and the politics of childhood, said the panel would be an opportunity to discuss the broader impact of the Voice.

“As a Torres Strait Islander scholar in that field, I’ve bore witness to the sustained political claims that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made over the decades,” she said.

“I’m interested in being part of the public conversation about that and bringing a political perspective to the debate.

“Although I have lived down south, I can now speak to an audience, a community, which raised me.”

Associate Prof Nakata said she looked forward to answering questions from the audience about The Voice and its political implications.

“I hope to be able to offer an analysis of the political power of the Voice, explain some of debate surrounding The Voice, what sits behind that and why I support The Voice,” she said.

“It’s important we respond to concerns about The Voice in a clear and reassuring way.”

Cr Andrews said he was looking forward to explaining what The Voice would mean for his local community and Indigenous people across northern Queensland.

“I’m coming from a perspective of grass-roots representation,” he said.

“We’ll certainly be doing our best to promote the work we’re doing with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, but also what it means to be inviting the Australian people to join this movement and walk together.

“When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are in control of their destiny, we have evidence to suggest that there are significant improvements in our well-being.

“My understanding of a Voice to Parliament is one of recognition and representation - how best can we allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to not only have a say on matters that relate to them but how we can have input into to policies and legislation relating to our well-being.”

Last Friday, May 26, marked six years since the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Professor Davis said the panel discussion comes at a pivotal moment to build momentum and inform all Australians about the Uluru Statement, ensuring they are aware of the origins of the Voice.

“Six years ago, we asked First Peoples during a grassroots Regional Dialogue process what meaningful recognition meant to them. The overwhelming response was that a constitutionally protected Voice represented both substantive and symbolic recognition. This was the most endorsed reform out of the consultation process,” Professor Davis said.

“A Voice will give us a seat at the table. The Voice will give us a say on policies that affect our people, it will express the aspirations of First Nations Peoples, and will enhance our democracy.

“Conversation is vital. From the very beginning, our goal has been to make sure dialogue with the Australian people isn’t hampered by retail Australian politics. This is why events like this are so important.

“As we approach the referendum, our focus is on ensuring everyone is as informed as possible when the time comes to step into the ballot box. We are all going to have to vote, so we need to make an informed decision.”

The Panel will be held this Friday at 11am on the lawns of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library at JCU’s Bebegu Yumba Campus in Douglas, Townsville.

To register your attendance, head to jcu.edu.au/events, search ‘Voice to Parliament’ and follow the links.


Media enquiries: michael.serenc@jcu.edu.au