Anyone wondering exactly what an Indigenous Voice to Parliament could do will have to look no further than the state of South Australia. SA is set to become the first state to create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament after the ruling SA Labor Party were able to secure the support of the SA Greens to give them a majority in the Legislative Council.
Legislation will be introduced early next month by Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Kyam Maher which will create the SA Voice now that it has the numbers to pass.
“It’ll be the first in Australia, so it’ll be very historic that, for the first time, there will be a body like this that is elected, that will form a Voice to Parliament, a body that is chosen from Aboriginal people, by Aboriginal people,” Maher said.
The vote in Parliament will replicate what is hoped to be achieved at the national level with a referendum later this year. However, South Australians won’t have to vote on the change, as Labor went to the polls last year with an Indigenous Voice on their manifesto and the South Australian Constitution does not require a referendum to change, unlike the Federal Consitution. However the national vote goes, it won’t affect what SA does at a state level.
Maher has said that the Voice is likely to be up and running by the end of this year, with a vote for who will sit in the Voice expected to be held later this year. The Voice Bill was drafted in November of last year at the same time that consultation on how representatives will support each region of the state was undertaken. That consultation ended at the start of this year and is likely to have informed the recent announcement.
Greens MP Tammy Franks, whose support has been instrumental in getting this over the line, has said that the change will be a “win-win” for South Australians.
“The ability to hear what First Nations people think on any issue that affects Aboriginal Australians in South Australians, as we make our decision as parliamentarians for the best for South Australia, so I think it’s only a win-win,” she said.
How Will the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Work?
The Voice, at both the state and federal levels, is an advisory body. It doesn’t have any legislative power meaning it can’t create or block laws, only advise on proposals and topics that overwhelmingly affect Indigenous people.
In South Australia, the Voice will be made up of a gender-balanced 40 elected Local Voice representatives, 12 of whom will form a State Voice that can speak on any Bill in Parliament.
The SA Government has described it as “a strong and direct line of communication for First Nations peoples to South Australia’s Parliament”.
The State Voice will take advice from the Local Voice, who in turn speak to local Indigenous people and organisations about issues they have. The State Voice will be allowed to attend a minimum of two cabinet meetings per year, will give an annual address to Parliament, and will provide reports, questions, and advise to ministers about their department’s policies and budgets.
After the initial election of these 40 members this year, Voice leaders will be elected once every four years at the same time that state elections are held.
SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said in November that his state was “leading the nation with a Voice to Parliament in the true sense of the word”.
“It’s time Aboriginal people have the ability to express their hopes and aspirations for their people in the state’s supreme decision-making body and that means speaking on the floor of Parliament itself”.