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First Peoples' Assembly still supports Voice despite reports of rift

Dechlan Brennan -

Despite reports of friction on the position of the First Peoples' Assembly towards the Voice referendum, there remains overwhelming support amongst First Nations people for constitutional recognition.

Guardian Australia reported on Wednesday morning that a 'rift' had emerged between members over the official position of the Assembly concerning the Voice.

In March, the Assembly voted to support the enshrining of an Indigenous advisory body into the constitution. There was also a commitment made to raise awareness in the lead-up to the referendum.

The Assembly states that:

Any step forward that gives First Peoples a greater say in the decisions that affect our lives, is an important step worth taking to secure better outcomes for First Peoples.

Voice gets us one step closer to Treaty – both nationally and here in Victoria.

Newly elected co-chairs, Rueben Berg and Ngarra Murray, both support the Voice, as do previous co-chairs, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart. During their farewell addresses last month, both used the platform to urge everyone to vote yes.

Ms Murray, a Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman, recognised that the overwhelming majority of First Nations people want the voice to succeed.

"The vast majority of Aboriginal people support the Voice to parliament and that's the same in our assembly," she told Guardian Australia.

"Any assembly member can raise issues for discussion, but for it to become an official position it needs at least majority support in the assembly chamber."

Polling shows that support for the Voice amongst First Nations people is significantly higher than the national population, with a YouGov poll in April showing 83 per of Indigenous people supporting the referendum.

National Indigenous Times understands that most members still support the Voice, and the official position of the First Peoples' Assembly has not changed.

However, with half of the Assembly being voted in for the first time during the recent elections, there is some belief that dialogue from the new members should be obtained.

Gunditjmara and Bundjalung woman and member for the Metropolitan region, Tracey Evans, told National Indigenous Times that dialogue around the Voice should take place.

"It's really important that with the new faces at the table, we get to hear what they have to say about their respective communities," she said.

"It's important to respect the 'Yes' and the 'No' camps. Who supports it and why. I think it's important we have that discussion. We owe it to each other to have a conversation about it, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later."

Dhudhuroa, Yorta Yorta, Barapa Barapa, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wamba Wemba, Wergaia, Wiradjeri and Waywurru man and member for the Metropolitan region, Gary Murray, said that with all the new members there should be a rethink on the official position of the Assembly.

"We've obviously got half of the assembly who are new members, who didn't vote on it in March," he told National Indigenous Times.

"We've got a little bit more information now and the most important thing is we need to have state-wide meetings."

He previously told the Assembly during his opening address last month that the Voice was a "Furphy," and called for a new national body.

"Surely we're smart enough to do our own sovereign constitution," he said.

In March, Senator Pat Dodson and Chair of Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, confirmed to the Assembly that the Voice would not impact sovereignty.

The Assembly will oversee negotiations for a state-wide Treaty with the Victorian state government, as well as separate treaties for specific regions.

Sources have told National Indigenous Times that issues of criminal justice reform are also on the table for the second term.

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