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The Voice To Parliament won't succeed with advice from the 'usual suspects'

by Wayne Connop (Dogaman TO and former barrister)


Image: supplied

The Voice to Parliament needs a proper structure built from the foundations of First Nations people's needs and aspirations, not a rehash of government social policy failures.

Despondently their social policies have been written by people far removed from 'our normal', 'our reality' who live thousands of kilometres away in their ivory towers in the city.

In the main, government advice on the design of the ineffectual social policies are by the 'usual suspects' rehashed aspirations of the 70s, 80s and 90s and not that of the very people they profess to represent trying to maintain some modicum of decency: safe and secure shelter, fresh food and clean water, education for their kids, access to culturally safe health care, employment and legal representation, today.

It seems like the government's strategy for addressing Indigenous disadvantage is to find, identify and report any incremental progress to their social policies. We all know from the annual PM's Close The Gap report to parliament every year that the more things change the more they stay the same. Yes, only two of the 7 CTG goals bear any semblance of success. 

There is little to no analysis of the institutions and systems responsible for producing systemic racialised disparities our mob 'on country' experiences daily.

As such, governments need to stop overlapping and using poor data gained by handsomely remunerated public servants to suit their agenda for reform. Minister Burney needs to do away with the 'usual suspects' who advised previous governments on the Ten Point Plan (native title), Death In Custody, ATSIC, Stolen Generation, Reconciliation, Recognise and now the Voice to Parliament. You wonder why the success rate from your senior advisers is abysmal. Don't take my word for it, look at the statistics of your CTG goals. 

The policies need to be evidence-based and be consistent across all government agencies if they wish to make any real impact in addressing grassroots mob's third-world levels of disadvantage.

There is also little that is new about increased surveillance of Indigenous people as a policy measure - which is what this is. There is, however, a strong evidence base that tells of the long history of failure of such “interventions”.

The failings in Indigenous affairs are not due to Indigenous people making poor choices. Nor is it because we lack data or evidence of what works.

 It is a result of a sustained indifference to the lives of Indigenous peoples, disguised as benevolence in fictitious claims of policy reform.

The issue is the failure - or rather refusal - to commit to structural reform that meaningfully attends to the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state. Such reform demands recognition of the unique rights of Indigenous peoples, not simply more data on disadvantage and supposed Indigenous deviance.


The Voice needs a proper structure, not elite indigenous people designing the structure. It needs to come from the grassroots from the bottom up and not the top-down approach which currently in the media appears to be an authoritarian approach from elite blacks with no proper authority from the people on the ground. Which one of the senior black advisers has ever contested an Australian Electoral Commission NACC, NAC or ATSIC election? We all know them as the 'usual suspects' as they keep being appointed - not elected by the mob - by governments of all persuasions to tell them how to better manage black affairs in order to get the best bang for buck on offer.


The 'usual suspects' have been selected to represent the views of the grassroots mob. But what we get is their own lived experiences and opinions that are so far removed from our mob's reality it isn't funny.

If you wish to find the answers to your problems Minister Burney and Prime Minister Albanese, look no further than those sitting around you when you next have a little gathering to discuss the Voice to Parliament.


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