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The Australian public has emphasised the urgent need for the constitutional protection of a First Nations Voice to Parliament in submissions made to the Indigenous Voice Co-design process.

Analysis by the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre (ILC) finds 82 per cent of published public submissions expressly support the constitutional enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament. A further 5 per cent express in-principle support for constitutional enshrinement, combining to a total of 87 per cent of total submissions in support of constitutional change.

Submissions closed Friday, 30 April 2021.

“The Australian public has accepted the invitation of the Uluru Statement. The submissions show overwhelming support of everyday Australians wanting to move towards a referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution,” Referendum Council co-chair and Uluru Statement leader Pat Anderson AO says.

“The Australian people have stated, explicitly, that the design of a First Nations Voice cannot be decoupled from constitutional reform. Public submissions show that most Australians want the question put to them in a referendum as a matter of priority.” 

Submissions have been received from Australians from all walks of life, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, including Aboriginal organisations, healthcare and social services organisations, corporations, small community organisations, school children, teachers, professors, and community members. 

This includes the Law Council of Australia, the Business Council of Australia, Qantas and many more. 

“The overwhelming amount of support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice, represented by such a large percentage of published submissions, means that the Commonwealth and the Indigenous Voice Co-design group cannot ignore them,” Deputy Director of the Indigenous Law Centre, Dr Dani Larkin says. 

“The Prime Minister says there is no consensus on constitutional recognition. These submissions show otherwise.”

Submissions ranged from legal perspectives and expressions of community sentiment to heartfelt personal calls for substantive change. 

“I make this submission as an Aboriginal woman and mother,” one public submission reads. “I fear for the future and safety of my 4 sons, my siblings, nephews, and nieces… Until substantial change occurs, I will remain in fear.”

“Without a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament we will not achieve the structural reform needed to fundamentally shift the way that this country engages with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people… Our Voice needs to take its rightful place in our Constitution.”

Many of the public submissions spoke of the call from the Uluru Statement to walk with First Nations people to a better Australia.

“I really value the Uluru Statement from the Heart as a way I, a non-indigenous Australian, can support First Nations people to have a Voice,” another submission reads. 

“I believe it is well overdue for all Australians and our institutions to place First Nations people at the centre of decision making and planning for a better future.” 

The total number of public submissions noted on the Indigenous Voice website was 2421 (as of 12pm, 30 April 2021), indicating that not all public submissions have been published online. 

The Indigenous Law Centre analysed all public submissions published on the National Indigenous Australians Agency’s ‘Indigenous Voice’ website as of  12pm 30 April 2021, representing 1435 public submissions. 

The UNSW Indigenous Law Centre leads educational campaigns on the Uluru Statement and the Uluru Dialogues process. Its mandate is the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The work of the ILC is informed by the many cultural authority involved in the work of the Referendum Council and the First Nations dialogues that led to the Uluru Statement.