Dale Agius, South Australia’s inaugural Commissioner for First Nations Voice,  walks us through how the South Australian Voice to Parliament was developed, and what he was told during more than 40 public consultation sessions.

He says there is too much attention being given to fly-in fly-out politicians, rather than listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples directly about the issues that are impacting their lives. He says the voice, both within the state and on a federal level is not a silver bullet. However, it is the opportunity for indigenous communities to come and sit at the table so they can take information, as raw and real as it is, and present it directly to the parliament.

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Mr Agius says during his community consultations the message he was getting was that “it’s time for change and what’s happened in the past in South Australia isn’t working”. He was told that if you’re going to give indigenous people an option to bring them to the table to please shape it up. Indigenous peoples want autonomy and self-determination in the legislation to feel safe and to feel they have the ability to talk straight to the parliament.

In response to the claims that a Voice to Parliament will only give voice to the same small group of people, he says that could have been the case, but community consultation in South Australia changed that. The way the Voice is structured in South Australia will enable Indigenous people in the community to be consulted directly on issues that matter to them.

South Australia’s plan to fully implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart can provide guidance for other jurisdictions. However, each indigenous community is different, so the consultations need to be done everywhere, to see what will work best in each location.

Dale Agius is South Australia’s inaugural Commissioner for First Nations Voice. Dale is a Kaurna, Narungga, Ngadjuri and Ngarrindjeri person with connection to communities and Country across South Australia. His previous roles include Director of Aboriginal Practice and Partnerships within the Department of Human Services, Manager of DHS’ Metropolitan Aboriginal Youth and Family Services and Executive Officer in the Office of the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement.

Sharon Bessell is Professor of Public Policy and Director of both the Children’s Policy Centre and the Poverty and Inequality Research Centre at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

Arnagretta Hunter is the Human Futures Fellow at ANU College of Health and Medicine, a cardiologist, physician, and a Senior Clinical Lecturer at ANU Medical School.

Show notes | The following was mentioned during this episode

Langton-Calma Report – Indigenous Voice Co-design Process Final Report to the Australian Government (2021)

Speaking from the heart – Aunty Patricia Anderson AO on Policy Forum Pod (2021)



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