South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher wants to begin talks on a state version of the First Nations Voice to Parliament ahead of a launch of the body next year.
- Both SA and federal Labor have promised to introduce an Indigenous Voice to Parliament at their respective levels
- SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher says consultation on a state body will start soon
- A treaty process will also be restarted
It would provide advice to Parliament about decisions affecting the lives of First Nations people.
Mr Maher — South Australia’s first Aboriginal Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister — said South Australian Labor made a commitment to adopt the Statement from Uluru after the 2019 federal election.
He said he believed the state should not have to wait for the federal government to act.
“I find that pretty hard to argue against.
“In my experience, the vast majority of South Australians — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal — would want that to happen so I think that is getting increasing — and significantly increasing — support across the community.”
Federal Labor has promised to introduce a similar body but, at the Commonwealth level, a referendum would be required to change the constitution.
Mr Maher said South Australia’s Voice to Parliament could be introduced using legislation.
He told The Australian newspaper that could happen next year.
Referendums are not required to change the South Australian constitution.
The previous Liberal state government made some moves to creating a Voice to Parliament, but legislation called the Aboriginal Representative Body Bill was criticised by Labor because of a lack of consultation.
It never passed Parliament before Labor won the election in March.
The state Liberal Party does not have an official position on Labor’s proposal.
New Premier Peter Malinauskas mentioned the Voice to Parliament promise in his election victory speech, .
Mr Maher is the only Indigenous person elected to parliament in South Australia at a state or federal level, although Liberal Kerrynne Liddle is ahead in the race for the sixth Senate spot after last month’s federal vote.
Treaty process to restart
Mr Maher said the previous Labor state government had led the nation when it began its own treaty process, before it was abandoned soon after the Liberal Party won office in 2018, with then-premier Steven Marshall promising instead to improve outcomes around Aboriginal education, child protection, health and jobs.
Mr Maher said his government would be restarting the treaty process.
“Having an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, having restarted the treaty process and having a truth-telling process — we committed to that after the 2019 federal election because we decided we couldn’t wait for a federal government to start the process and we needed to do something about it,” he said.
He said consultation with Indigenous people and communities would start “soon” on the Voice to Parliament but first the government would look at the success of other states’ models, particularly those in Victoria and Queensland.