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Joint select committee on the Voice travels the nation

Callan Morse -

Following the Federal Government's announcement of the proposed Voice referendum question, a joint select committee has begun travelling regional Australia to hear feedback from First Nations communities about the legislation's wording.

After the first public hearing was held in Canberra, the committee headed west to the New South Wales city of Orange before heading north to hear from Torres Strait Islanders and Far North Queenslanders in Cairns, with sentiment towards the Voice in both regions positive.

In Orange, proud Wiradjuri man Roy Ah-See told the committee an enshrined Voice to parliament was an opportunity to unify the nation.

"Our path is your path. Our future is your future. Our success is your success. Our failure is your failure. Our story is your story," he told the committee.

"Together, it becomes our history."

Meanwhile in Cairns, Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor Phillemon Mosby told the committee he considered the Voice '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."

The committee will travel to Perth next Friday before returning to Canberra the following week, with a final report set to be delivered to parliament in mid-May.

The joint select committee's consultation period comes following public support from the Voice from a number of former Liberal Indigenous affairs ministers.

Ian Viner, Fred Chaney and Peter Baume, who all served the Indigenous affairs portfolio in the 1970s and '80s have publicly backed the Voice referendum, whilst also supporting Ken Wyatt and Julian Leeser's respective decisions after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced the Liberal Party's opposition to a constitutionally enshrined Voice.

Mr Leeser resigned from the shadow Indigenous affairs portfolio and opposition frontbench earlier this month, allowing him to return to the backbench and campaign for the Voice whilst Mr Wyatt announced his resignation from the Liberal Party entirely.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the support shown by former Liberal MPs is representative of broader Voice support from across the country.

"There is a groundswell of support across Australia to say Yes to the constitutional recognition, through a Voice," Ms Burney said.

"I acknowledge the support from across the political aisle from people like Ken Wyatt, Ian Viner, Fred Chaney and Peter Baume.

"I encourage all Australians to walk with us on this journey. At the end of the day, this referendum is not about politicians. This referendum belongs to the Australian people."

On Friday morning Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue's advice to the government on the Voice was released.

In it Dr Donaghue said the proposed amendment "is not just compatible with the system of representative and responsible government prescribed by the constitution, but an enhancement of that system".

"(The Voice) serves the objective of overcoming barriers that have historically impeded effective participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in political discussions and decisions that affect them," he wrote.

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