Adelaide University on Engaging THE VOICE

Stephen Larkin, Pro-VC for Indigenous Engagement, Adelaide University, 9 October 2023

This week, Australians will vote on whether to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First First Peoples of Australia, through a First Nations Voice enshrined in our Constitution.

At the heart of the Voice are its design principles which ensure Indigenous Australians are empowered to provide insights and advice on the decisions that impact them directly. As we consider what a Voice would mean to the Parliament and our nation, it is worth reflecting on how the principles of the Voice apply in the context of our University.

How can we enable Indigenous students, staff and communities to have a Voice, and what impact does listening to – and learning from – that Voice have in practice?

The first key principle is advice and consultation. This is provided to leadership and relevant governance structures at the University through the office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) and Wirltu Yarlu.

The Voice seeks to ensure representation and inclusion of First Nations perspectives and there has been an increased appreciation of the value of this at the University in recent years. By ensuring that their perspective and standpoint is embedded across the University of Adelaide, our activities and initiatives are culturally informed and empowering for our First Nations community.

Accountability and transparency are further design principles of the Voice. This is reflected in the University context by alignment with existing strategies and structures, and compliance with current policies and procedures.

Regardless of the outcome of the Referendum, the University of Adelaide remains committed to the Principles of the Voice and to embedding them across our institution. They are informing the design of a new First Nations Strategy with the final version scheduled to be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor in December.

Professor Steve Larkin | Kungarakan
Pro Vice Chancellor – Indigenous Engagement

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One response to “Adelaide University on Engaging THE VOICE

  1. Max

    While I support the referendum to provide constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians through a voice to parliament and government, there are legitimate concerns about what is meant by “the representation” of First Nations perspectives. How will First Nation representatives be selected, and on what basis? That is unknown.

    It is also unclear what the Voice means in the future, and where it will go in terms of power relations.

    This referendum has flaws. The Australian Government have been somewhat vague about what it means in specific terms. Many Australians – still confused about the referendum – will probably vote No because they don’t know what it means. Others with concerns about both the Yes and No positions will vote No because there has been no avenue to address concerns for greater clarificiation on specific details.

    It would be a pity if the No vote were to win the referendum because the opportunity to address the right of indigenous Australians having a voice in parliament and government will be lost, perhaps indefinitely, or at least for many generations.
    For this reason, it may have been a good idea if a third option was available on the ballot, i.e., the option of abstaining for those unsatisfied with the Yes and No positions as presented to Australians, who would like the referendum to be rethought in a better way,with greater consultation, to ensure it becomes a reality.

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