Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, has announced the membership of the National Co-Design Group who will inform the process of First Nations Voice to Parliament.

Wyatt said the new group will be co-chaired by senior First Nations leader, Dr Donna Odegaard AM, and a senior official from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA); who will oversee the 15 members developing models for establishing a national voice.

“Indigenous Australians want their voices heard at all levels of Government and want to help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives,” Minister Wyatt said.

“This group will work on options to have Indigenous voices heard on the national stage and take a model to Indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders around the country to refine.”

Proud Wadjuk Noongar woman, Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker is the only WA woman appointed to the group.

Professor Kickett-Tucker has an extensive CV; she is a social psychological research scientist, children’s fiction writer and community development practitioner from the School of Education at Curtin University.

“I’ve had a few people say, ‘It’s another group, what’s going to happen?’ I understand that. I’m a blackfulla too, I’m grassroots and humble – I’m also asking that question,” Professor Kickett-Tucker said.

“But being a researcher, I also know … the process of gathering information. It does take time, you have to use different methods and formats … If you look over the years, the referendum for the vote, the Reconciliation movement, the Uluru Statement; now we’re getting to a point where we are looking at representation in government for Aboriginal folk – it’s one part of that puzzle and that’s how I see it.”

Getting the call from Minister Wyatt whilst on leave, she confided in those close to her.

“I thought hang on … let me ring my Dad who is Stolen Generation, let me talk to my husband who is a blackfulla from northeast Goldfields, let me talk to key people and if they feel okay, and think I can do the job for us then I’ll do it,” Professor Kickett-Tucker said.

“I’ve only got a short moment in time to do the bit that I know I’m capable to do and the bit that the community want me to do.”

“I wouldn’t have said yes if those people I spoke to said they weren’t sure. You’ve got to ask, I’m always open for that too. If I’m on the wrong track, I’m not saying it’s right or I can do better, come tell me.”

The responsibility of being the only female WA representative has made Professor Kickett-Tucker aware of her need to create strong relationships with community across the state.

“We need to keep WA on the map, over here we kind of feel like things finish at the Rabbit Proof Fence, particularly in terms of funding when you’re a researcher or community group.

“To fly the flag for Urban Aboriginal people in the Perth area, but also giving a call out to people living in large rural towns like Kalgoorlie where my husband comes from – I’ll do that.

“I know I’m the only Aboriginal female on the group, but I’m very approachable and a very team orientated person. A lot of people who know me, know how to get hold of me. My mobile number hasn’t changed in 30 years! Unlike the kids I work with, they change their mobile number like they change their underwear!

“This system that pervades our life isn’t our system, even me being the one Aboriginal female from WA, that alone isn’t our way of doing business.”

“We need consensus, so I need to create that outside of this to make sure I’m doing right. That’s difficult, I’m going to miss people at times and I know that, but people need to know my heart is on my sleeve. I’m there to honour my people, any blackfulla in WA.”

Professor Kickett-Tucker acknowledges that whilst the group is one small part of the puzzle, it will build something more for First Nations Peoples.

“I think it’s really brave of Minister Wyatt to move this forward, and he’s had a bit of slack on it. I know we are going to get people who won’t like it and people who will like it but in my heart, this is the right step in this point in time.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, we are now putting more pieces, solid pieces together. Once we finish the puzzle someone will glue it together for history.”

“Especially when you look at what happened over the decades, my Dad, he is Stolen Generation … I’m the first in my family to go to university, and get qualified. I wouldn’t be able to do that unless my great-grandfather wrote a dedication to the Premier of WA to allow Aboriginal people to go school. It’s always adding value.

“I can’t wait to see local government have Aboriginal representation. That is the big one for us, we are local people, we like to stay in our communities, but a lot of us don’t have say in our local communities.”

Other members of the National Co-Design Group include:

  • Dr Donna Odegaard AM
  • Mr Jamie Lowe
  • Mr Rodney Dillon
  • Professor Gracelyn Smallwood AM
  • Mr Richardson Weston
  • Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
  • The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
  • Mr Damian Griffis
  • Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
  • Ms Fiona McLeod SC
  • Mr Marcus Stewart
  • Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
  • The Hon Fred Chaney AO
  • Mr Joseph Elu AO
  • Ms Zell Dodd.

More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website: www.niaa.gov.au/indigenous-voice.

By Rachael Knowles