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Torres Strait Islanders and far north Queenslanders back Voice to Parliament, inquiry told

Rudi Maxwell (AAP) -

Torres Strait Islanders and Far North Queenslanders view the voice to parliament as unfinished business, Indigenous leaders have told a parliamentary inquiry.

The inquiry into the voice to parliament and executive government held a hearing in Cairns on Wednesday.

Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor Phillemon Mosby said the people of the Torres Strait view a First Nations voice as unfinished business.

"We stand with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters of this country, as Torres Strait Islanders, we support the voice to parliament," he said.

"We feel that this is unfinished business and continues the job that was done by our predecessor, the late honourable Eddie Mabo, who overturned the doctrine of terra nullius."

Last year, the people of the Torres Strait released the Masig Statement, the Statement from the Deep, calling for self-determination.

"We don't want handouts, we want hands up and people to recognise that by giving us the opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that we can do things for ourselves," Deputy Torres Strait Island Regional Council mayor Getano Lui said.

Torres Strait Island councils and traditional owner groups from Cape York and the Torres Strait are among those who gave evidence at the hearing on Wednesday.

Cape York Land Council chair Richie Ah Mat said a First Nations voice was a modest request.

"We're not asking for extra money, we're not asking anyone to cut an arm off we're just saying listen to us," he said.

Mr Ah Mat said he was upset by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton campaigning against the voice, particularly given the timing of the announcement coming so soon after the death of land rights champion Yunupingu.

"I thought was unacceptable behaviour and disrespectful to that person who passed away," he said.

Northern Peninsula Area Mayor Patricia Yusia said decisions made in Canberra frequently had consequences for remote communities.

"Our people are still dying younger, facing poor educational outcomes, living in poor and overcrowded houses and facing multiple preventable chronic diseases," she said.

"We represent one of the most socially and economically disadvantaged areas of Queensland.

"This is partially due to policy decisions being made without consideration or review of the impacts that will have on remote communities.

"Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are best placed to drive the changes needed in the community to meaningfully impact on addressing the gaps in lifestyle and life expectancy."

Mayor Ross Andrews represents one of the largest discrete Indigenous communities in Queensland, Yarrabah, a former mission.

He said the referendum was an opportunity for Australians to come on board and help empower Indigenous people.

"It will be a hard slog and things won't change as quickly as we expect or anticipate but we have to try something different because the data is going in the wrong direction with Indigenous people," Mr Andrews said.

"This is a it's a great opportunity for Australia to mature as a country."

Australians will vote in the referendum on the voice between October and December.

"We've got to get consensus from everybody to get this referendum across the line," Mr Ah Mat said.

"I really can't understand what's coming from this 'no' campaign.

"There are other Indigenous people who are supporting a 'no' campaign, it's like they don't want their own people to be recognised in this country."

The inquiry examining the voice started last week and has held hearings in Canberra and Orange in the NSW central west.


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   Rudi Maxwell (AAP)   

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