Jobs Events Advertise

South Australia becomes the first state to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Dechlan Brennan -

South Australia has become the first Australian jurisdiction to establish an Indigenous Voice to parliament, with premier Peter Malinauskas declaring it a "momentous" event.

The SA government's legislation passed the House of Assembly and was immediately given assent by Governor Frances Adamson in a public ceremony before a large crowd who had gathered to witness the event outside parliament house in Adelaide on Sunday.

Children waved the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in a large showing of support – despite the bad weather in the South Australian capital.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said that "…the way we pay our respects…is not with our words, but in our deeds".

"And there are no more powerful deeds than South Australia becoming the first place in our nation to pass a law enshrining an Indigenous voice to our parliament," he said.

The premier also lamented that while "almost all of us" had experienced Australian prosperity, the Bill marked just one a step towards addressing the gross inequalities faced by First Nations people.

"It is an even more remarkable Australian tragedy, that the one group of people that have been left most behind for the last 200 years, are the very people, who for over 65,000 years have provided great care and custodianship to the land we stand on today," he said.

He later wrote on social media:

"Put simply, our First Nations people deserve the right to have a say on the issues that affect their lives. They will now have the opportunity to speak directly to decision makers at the highest levels of in this State.

"I am proud that South Australia is leading the country with its first Nations Voice, and I look forward to working with the Voice to strengthen our work in closing the gap of First Nations disadvantage".

The bill was carried out of the House, escorted by a large group of First Nations people, to the steps of parliament.

Photo credit: Matt Turner (AAP)

Kyam Maher, South Australia's Attorney-General, told the crowd that "for too long, Aboriginal people have lacked a meaningful voice in the decision making that fundamentally affects our lives".

"In decades and centuries gone by, the laws of our state - and the colony that preceded it - have done so much to deliberately disenfranchise, disempower and disadvantage Aboriginal people," he said.

"Today we use those laws to do exactly the opposite."

Governor Adamson, in giving royal assent to the bill, said: "Nearly 200 years ago, good intentions toward Aboriginal people – proclaimed by our first Governor - were encompassed in the foundational documents of our state".

"History shows, regrettably, they did not come to fruition," she said.

"Today, I restate my commitment to supporting the process of reconciliation in our state, and to working side by side with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to achieve this goal."

The First Nations Voice Bill 2023 establishes Australia's first voice to Parliament for Aboriginal people.

The government says that the Voice "will be a connected, direct and independent line of communication for First Nations people to South Australia's Parliament and the government, to allow important, shared communication by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in South Australia."

The legislation will allow six regions to be established throughout South Australia, each with elected representatives.

Two members from each group will then form the State First Nations Voice. This can address ether house of parliament on any legislation that is of interest to First Nations people.

Representatives for the South Australian Voice will be elected within the next few months after the boundaries are finalised. The state government hopes the Voice itself will be fully implemented and advising parliament by the end of 2023.

The establishment of the first state-based Voice comes in the same week as the federal Government announcing the exact wording for the referendum – to be held later this year – to enshrine a federal Indigenous body into the constitution.

Whilst Victoria and the ACT have elected First Nations bodies that can make recommendations to government agencies, they both have different functions to what the South Australian Voice will have.

Mr Maher said the bill has the potential to "change Australia" because the country would "watch us reshape the way Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal South Australians work together towards common goals".

"It's not everyday that we get to do something that has the potential to influence the course of a nation's history, but friends, we do that today," he said.

   Related Articles   

   More by Dechlan Brennan