JSCCR Interim Report Speech
Posted August 17, 2018
Cathy is calling for submissions to be made to the JSCCR interim report to be made by 17 September to help the committee do what the people of Australia are asking us to do.
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (17:52): I acknowledge the words of the member for Herbert and I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews, for your support. I am a member of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It gives me great pleasure to talk to this interim report and to call for the community to be involved. There are a few things I'd like to cover in my brief presentation. I'd like to talk about the committee; I'd like to talk about some of the key points in the report; and I'd like to finish by acknowledging an event that took place in my electorate that is relevant to the report.
Colleagues, I come from north-east Victoria. One would not normally associate me with being on this committee, but I am so pleased to be there. I am one of 12 members. There have been five Labor members, five LNP members, one Independent member—me—and one Greens member. In my career to date this has probably been one of the nicest and most productive committees I've been on. 'Nicest' is probably really not a good word, but the level of respect and the contribution that the committee people want to make to doing this really well should give the people of Australia enormous confidence. It is a parliamentary select committee, so we actually report to the parliament. It has got senators and House of Representatives people working together. The sense of collegiality that exists has been just the most wonderful thing in my experience. I'm so pleased that this interim report is bipartisan. We've worked really closely together on it. It brings to the people of Australia our best efforts at this time.
So what's in the report? There are two things in particular that I'd like to bring to your attention. The first is a very strong commitment from the committee to what people have told us—that they support the concept of a voice. What is that voice about? This is one of the areas where we're looking for more input, but in the report we talk about:
… The Voice will fulfil a number of functions including: serving as a representative body or bodies which provide mechanisms to consult and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on policies, legislation, and services which affect them, leading to a reduction to barriers to access, to advance self-determination, and as a consequence lead to greater local decision making … to a more unified and reconciled nation and be supported by the over whelming majority of Australians.
So that's no small ask of a voice. But I think it's really important to understand and know that that's encapsulated in the report, and that's what we're trying to do.
The second thing I'd like to talk about in the report, which I find so useful, is what we call 'design principles'. Chapter 3 outlines the principles which we're looking at to design that voice. I want to use a quote which I think will help set the scene here:
… there has been a shift in thinking from the primacy of a national voice to some combination of a local, regional, and national model.
I'm really pleased with that, because I think if we can come up with a model that works at the local level, works at the regional level and works at the national level, and in each of those spheres of government, whether it be local government or regional government or the national government, we provide opportunities for voices to be heard, I think we'll be doing a really good thing.
The third part of the report that I'd like to bring to the chamber's attention, as mentioned by the member for Herbert, is that chapter 7 is called 'Committee comment'—as separate from some of the information we've been hearing during the inquiry. There are some very strong comments here from the committee and questions that we are seeking more information on. All of chapter 7 talks about this voice:
… common themes have emerged from the submissions and evidence presented to the Committee.
There is strong support for the concept of The Voice.
What we haven't really got at the moment is what the voice will look like. What's the flesh on the bones? What's the detail? How do we actually make a national, regional and local voice work? So we're calling for greater input on some of those specific questions. I'm so looking forward to the next period when we actually get to flesh out the question: what are the models that could work and how can we work together on that?
The second area I'd like to pick up on, other than the voice, is what we call truth-telling. The committee is of the view at this stage that there would be value in considering what truth-telling means and how it might work, both in formal and informal settings, at the national, regional and local level, where communities could come together to commemorate both positive and negative examples of the history of our communities. There are some ideas about how that might work. I know in my community there is an enormous interest in truth-telling and how it works both informally and formally. I'm particularly putting the call out to communities to give us some feedback on the voice—in your community, how would you like to be involved in truth-telling? I know in Australia, we often talk about what happened in South Africa after apartheid and the truth-telling commission that was set up there. So there are some really useful examples that we might be able to look at.
In closing, I'll tell a short story about this report and how it's working in my electorate. I'd like to acknowledge Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. Senator McCarthy is on our committee. She's a senator from the Northern Territory. On Sunday, 29 July, she was invited to present the Kerferd oration, which is an annual oration that's held in my electorate of Indi, in Beechworth. Senator McCarthy was the orator. I was looking forward to seeing her and hearing her ideas, but what I didn't expect is that 500 people would turn up in Beechworth on a cold, wet, rainy day. The population of the whole Indigo shire is not much more than 500! It's a few thousand. But there was a huge number of people who turned up. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy did a fantastic speech and, at the end of it, there was a standing ovation. I don't think I could even begin to explain the feeling in the room of support for what we as a nation are trying to do with this committee. The community want us to do it well. They really want us to address the problems of the past and move on to a future where we as a nation can recognise our history and be proud of who we are and our long history—60,000-plus years we've had on this continent—and confidently step out into the future in the next 50 and 100 years, knowing that we are a united people, proud of our history and heritage and ready to really make the most of it.
So thank you so much, Senator McCarthy, for coming to Beechworth, to my electorate. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being there for us. I say to my electorate: I'm on this committee and it's got my full commitment to do my very best for the future of Australia. I'm looking forward to representing my community in the next stage. The closing date for submissions to be in is 17 September. One of my other colleagues, the member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, is also on this committee. We share a boundary through the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga. We've invited the committee to come to Albury-Wodonga. We are hoping that will happen on Monday, 24 September. It will be an opportunity for both Albury-Wodonga and surrounding communities to talk to the committee about their aspirations for this report.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the work of the secretariat—some enormous goodwill, far beyond what's expected in a normal job. You've done a fantastic piece of work in working with the committee and helping us do our job really well. Could you please pass that on to the relevant people. I am particularly looking forward to being in parliament on 29 November when we present our final report, which I'm really hoping will be unanimous and will do for the people of Australia what they're asking us to do.