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South Australian Government set to introduce nation’s first Voice to Parliament bill

Callan Morse -

The South Australian government is set to make history by being the first state government in Australia to introduce a bill to establish a state-based Voice to Parliament for First Nations people.

The First Nations Voice Bill 2023 will establish the Voice to South Australia's parliament, a significant step towards the South Australian government implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Proposing a connected, direct and independent line of communication for First Nations people to South Australia's parliament and the government, the bill will provide a means for important, shared communication by locally elected community members.

The bill marks the culmination of months of work undertaken by Commissioner for First Nations Voice Dale Agius, who has overseen two extensive rounds of engagement with First Nations communities and the broader South Australian community.

Mr Agius said the Voice will provide First Nations peoples with the opportunity to self-determine their future.

"This is about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having a platform to share knowledge, wisdom, and aspirations for the future, and to be included in the decision-making process," Mr Agius said.

"We spoke with many communities during the second round with enthusiasm and excitement for what a Voice can do.

"Overwhelmingly, people continued to show support for the Voice."

A number of modifications have been made to the bill following the second round of public consultation, including allowing the Voice to address either house of parliament, provisions to ensure Native Title agreements or First Nations organisations are not affected and clearer definitions of the terms First Nations person and Traditional Owner.

The establishment of specific committees representing young First Nations people, Elders, Native Title holders and members of the Stolen Generations has also been proposed.

In announcing the bill, South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher said the South Australian community has played a significant role in the development of the Voice legislation.

"The development of this Bill has been done hand in hand with South Australia's Aboriginal communities," Mr Maher said.

"This is a defining moment for South Australia – long-overdue, the recognition of our state's First people and an acknowledgement that we can do more to listen to their views.

"This is, in essence, about ensuring First Nations people have more of a say in the decisions that affect their lives."

First Nations peoples will be able to elect people from six geographical areas of the state, with each area's boundaries to be determined and recommended by a group of community leaders.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said South Australia is leading the nation in implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

"Today we are taking a major step forward in reconciliation. But it is not the last," he said.

"This will be a genuine Voice to Parliament in the true sense of the word.

"This is a nation-leading opportunity for South Australia to demonstrate to the rest of the country the benefits of giving our First Nations people greater say in the development of laws and policies that affect their lives."

The bill is set to be introduced to South Australian parliament on Thursday.

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