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Linda Burney and Deb Haaland discuss Voice and truth-telling

Emma Ruben -

US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has said it is the job of all departments to make Tribal consultation a priority.

Continuing her tour of Australia, Secretary Haaland met with Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and they shared their experiences and thoughts on truth-telling, consultation and the Voice.

Ms Burney is the first known Aboriginal woman to be elected into the House of Representatives and Secretary Haaland is similarly the first Native American woman to serve in US cabinet.

Secretary Haaland said it is important for not just her department to make consultation with First Nations a priority but all departments within the Biden administration.

"Quite frankly if whatever issue affects Tribes, it's our job to make sure that Tribal consultation comes first so that we know exactly what they would like for us to do," she said.

"President Biden has made Tribal consultation a priority of his administration. And so it's not just the Department of Interior.

"It's every department, it's an all of government approach to every issue, health care, infrastructure, agriculture, all of these things.

"If the Tribes have a voice, we go to them and ask what they would like and then we move forward."

On Australian soil, a final report co-designed and led by Tom Calma and Marcia Langton on the Voice to Parliament was released in 2021.

Ms Burney said Australia is also working on cementing local and regional voices as laid out in the co-design final recommendations.

"So states and territories right across Australia are embarking on treaty and truth telling processes and in some states there is actually going to be the creation of a state voice," she said.

"Those things are very important. And we will work alongside state and territory initiatives and complement them both ways.

"I think the issue of truth telling is just so very important for many of the reasons that Madam Secretary has already mentioned, but the idea that we as a country will all understand our truth, will make us a more united Australia."

Ms Burney also said she would not be commenting publicly on the discussions within the Referendum Working Group, but confirmed they are on track to introduce the Constitution Alteration Bill in Parliament this March.

Secretary Haaland in her role as Secretary of the Interior has similarly worked to consult with US First Nations groups on matters of climate change, land and water.

She said the momentum of First Nations voices informing climate change will not only continue in these the US and Australia, but also throughout the rest of the world.

"I think that this era that we're in with climate change, and many, many countries recognising the value of Indigenous knowledge to that, respecting our planet for future generations, is undeniable," Secretary Haaland said.

Secretary Haaland also acknowledged First Nations people have always had a voice.

"Indigenous people have been have been speaking for a long time. Some people haven't stopped to listen to them." she said.

"So I don't think the Indigenous people have changed, they are still speaking out.

"It's the people who were in leadership positions that are finally opening their ears to hear what they have to say.

"And what they have to say is incredibly important."

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