02 JULY 2018


02 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition

FIONA WYLLIE: … I caught up with Co-Chairman of the Inquiry Patrick Dodson and asked him what he heard in Dubbo.
PATRICK DODSON: Well today we focused a bit on regional governance and regional leadership. And had representation from Murdi Paaki which is a very interesting corporate entity that operates without necessarily controlling a budget and enables people who live in a region to attend and seek to solve problems at a local level as well as at a regional level. So a very very interesting discussion on how they work and respond to need and the importance of dealing with issues that concern them and not just being responsive to what Government always wants.

WYLLIE: What do you envision giving a voice to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples in Parliament looks like?

DODSON: Well it’s interesting because when you talk about giving a voice to people in the Parliament that’s a fairly complex area. But people are talking about wanting to have a say over legislation that is likely to affect their lives, have a say over policies that are going to impact them. They don’t obviously want to interfere with the operations and the sovereignty of the Parliament but people are really wanting a clear say over how at a regional local level matters can be coordinated and determined, and followed through from their perspectives rather than have a Government drive its own policy approach and its own program imperatives, without a lot of responsiveness to what local people consider more apt or more concerning. So it’s a balancing out of really enabling people to be influential and effective and have a sense of the shared power arrangement with Government with policy and when it comes to legislation and certainly when it comes to program delivery at a level and at a regional level so that the benefits flow for the people they are intended to.

WYLLIE: How would then that notion of a voice be national or regional?

DODSON: Well there are a number of models that have been put to us in terms of a regional model, and as I said the Murdi Paaki arrangement, the good work that they are doing out at Dubbo again we heard about justice reinvestment, the program, the coordination and the partnership, the interaction of corporate and public sector groups. So there is a lot of good work that’s happening really in the space. They need support obviously and people need to be able to leverage those opportunities. Particularly remote places like Bourke, they need to be able to leverage those opportunities. They’re the people that know best what they want and how they can get the better results. So at a National level I think that’s the more challenging rea because it’s a question of how you interact with the Parliamentary process, how you interact with the executive Government, how you interact with the Minister, how you make sure you have your voice heard early in the process before the normal parliamentary process before a party locks itself into a position, so there are some challenges in that. But the central point is people really want to have a say over the future of their position in the nation and how they can effectively ensure more positive and better outcomes are happening for not only quantitative things, that is the things about Closing the Gap, but also their status as the First Nations people.

WYLLIE: How frustrated are people by how long it’s taking to make this change of constitutional recognition.

DODSON: Well there’s a fair degree of frustration but there is also a fair degree of understanding. People know that referendums aren’t easy in this nation. It’s a very high bar, requiring a double majority of people to support the proposition. It also requires Government’s to be on side in the first instance. I think that people want to make sure that things are got right and that we have to work on several fronts. We just can’t put all the eggs in the one basket and hope that a referendum will resolve matters. People do look to what was done in the LGBTI situation where there was a plebiscite, some people are saying well maybe there ought to be some testing of the commitment of Australian people to agreement making and how best that can be taken forward, and about truth telling and how best that can happen. So it’s not just about interfacing with the Parliament over legislation and policy and public expenditure. It’s also about the quality of life for First Nations people in recognition of their position that hasn’t been resolved in the way the nation could resolve these things.

WYLLIE: Any discussion on treaty?

DODSON: Yes there is discussion on treaty. People use a range of words in this context, they talk about treaty, they talk about sovereignty – these are highly charged words at times and in certain sectors of the community but they are real terms and we are growing in out maturity to respond to them. Look, fundamentally it’s about agreements. It’s about agreements between different sectors of our society at a local level, at a community level. It’s about matters that are mundane and not just the complicated issues. So, it’s really about how do we reset the relationship between in a respectful way and mutually respect the starting point that we all come from. So how do we get that genius to enable that to happen and take on board the sensitivities that people on all sides might have to this.

WYLLIE: What can we learn from perhaps oversees on giving constitutional recognition?

DODSON: Well there’s a conference at the ANU tomorrow and the next couple of days which are bringing a whole range of experts from other nations states. Some people have been in charge of their own sort of Parliaments that have interfaced with the nation state’s parliamentary structures. We will be having a session with some of those people and getting their inputs and hopefully their observations about Australia’s own sort of arrangements. So that’s fortuitous that the ANU has organised that, and so we are looking forward to hearing from Maori people, from Saami, Canadians, from people from Hawaii, other nation states and academics as well. So really a question of where there has been constitutional recognition or the establishment of a voice or an entity to the nation’s parliaments or governing entity, these nations see they have been able to survive without a great deal of challenge and upheaval.  Maybe we will hear some of the not only positive things but also some of the downsides of how it may not contribute to nation building overall.

WYLLIE: Sounds like you’re having a very interesting time with it. Does it feel like you’re moving forward?

DODSON: I think we are. We are gently moving forward. I don’t pretend we’ve got all the solutions. There are a range of ideas, very positive and constructive ideas that have been put to us. It will be a challenge for our committee to distil that from the over one hundred I think submissions we have received to date. We will be continuing our consultations in Canberra tomorrow and in Sydney the next day, then Adelaide and Perth as we go towards finalising a draft report by the end of July. And obviously then we will be doing further work and further consultations as we go into the latter part of the year when we have to finalise the final report by November.


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