The head of the Yes campaign claims the Voice to Parliament will allow Aboriginal people to influence change on issues like Australia Day.
Yes23 Campaign Director Dean Parkin made the assertion during an online forum titled ‘Exploring January 26’ that was hosted by Evangelisation Brisbane last year.
The forum looked into what the date of Australia Day – or Invasion Day – means for First Nations people.
It featured Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Mr Parkin, Reconciliation officer and Birri Gubba woman Cynthia Rowan, and Caritas Australia Youth Participation Coordinator and Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji woman Sabrina Stevens.
At one point, Mr Parkin spoke about the Voice and how it would give Indigenous Australians a ‘real say’ in influencing change on important issues like January 26.
His comment comes in spite of the fact Indigenous Affairs minister Linda Burney stated a Voice to Parliament would have no interest in trying to change the date.
Yes23 Campaign Director Dean Parkin (pictured) claimed the Voice to Parliament would allow Indigenous people to influence change on important issues, such as Australia Day
‘We need to make sure that we have that Voice in place because that constitutionally guaranteed Voice is going to be the mechanism that allows us a seat at the table to ensure that these conversations around truth,’ Mr Parkin said in 2022.
‘Be it on the 26th, be it on any other issues that’s affecting our people, that we have a real say and we have a real opportunity to actually influence change.’
Mr Parkin said he did not want to be ‘sitting on a couch in 30 years’ time, 40 years’ time, having the same conversation’.
‘That’s why we need that Voice in place to make sure that when we think about these issues that are approaching – the 26th or anything else – that we have a genuine seat at the table and that’s the opportunity that’s before us,’ he said.
‘I believe we’ll get there. And hopefully we’ll be able to make more of an impact and have more of a say in changing the trajectory of our nation.’
Mr Parkin, who is from the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah, revealed during the discussion that January 26 is a date he feels he needs to ‘protect’ himself from by switching off social media and bunkering down in his home on the day.
‘It’s actually something I feel coming on the calendar – it’s not just all the days leading up and then it pops up on the day,’ he said.
‘It’s something that builds as it gets closer, as something to almost bunker down and away from.’
Mr Parkin made the comment during an online forum titled ‘Exploring January 26’ that was hosted by Evangelisation Brisbane last year. (Pictured L-R: Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Reconciliation officer and Birri Gubba woman Cynthia Rowan, Mr Parkin, and Caritas Australia Youth Participation Coordinator and Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji woman Sabrina Stevens)
The statement comes despite the fact Indigenous Affairs minister Linda Burney (pictured) said the Voice would have no interest in trying to change the date of Australia Day on Tuesday
Ms Burney stated in parliament on Tuesday the Voice would have no interest in trying to change the date of Australia Day.
Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley repeatedly called on Ms Burney to outline what the body would and would not be able to make representations to parliament on – with Ms Burney ruling out it would give advice about Australia Day.
‘I can tell you what the Voice will not be giving advice on. It won’t be giving advice on parking tickets,’ she said.
‘It won’t be giving advice on changing Australia Day. It will not be giving advice on all of the ridiculous things that that side has come up with.’
Ms Ley hit back on Wednesday morning in an interview with Peter Stefanovic on Sky News, calling on Ms Burney to return to parliament to ‘correct the record’.
‘I think Linda Burney is in real trouble here,’ she said.
‘If you mislead parliament, unintentionally perhaps, you need to step back into the chamber and correct the record.
‘It is clearly not the case that the Voice would not be able to make representations about Australia Day.’
Ms Ley had asked Ms Burney if the Voice could ‘make representatives to the Chief of the Defence Force on military acquisitions or the location or operation of military bases’
Constitutional experts have cast doubt on Ms Burney’s claims on Tuesday that the body would not be interested in Australia Day
Constitutional law expert George Williams told The Australian it is ‘conceivable’ to expect a group like the Voice to Parliament to make representations on the date of Australia Day.
The debate over whether Australia should change the date of the national day has been raging for decades, and only been amplified in recent years.
Mr Williams said: ‘The question is ‘matters relating to Indigenous peoples’ and a public holiday commemorating the colonisation of Australia might be something they make representations about. I only say ‘might’ – we don’t know – but it’d be open to them to do so if they wanted and then it would be a judgment call.
‘[Ms Burney] may know better than me. It’s her community after all. She may be making a judgment that she doesn’t believe they will. That’s why I don’t think she’s wrong; it’s just a judgment.’
Other experts say a date change is likely not a high priority, but could not give assurances that it would never be on the agenda.
Mr Parkin was also questioned this week about whether the Voice will be a step toward reparations being paid to Indigenous people after one of the proposal’s chief architects made the suggestion in an unearthed video clip.
Fellow board member on the Yes23 campaign, Thomas Mayo, spoke about the proposal being a step towards making compensation for Indigenous people a reality in a clip from 2020.
One of the architects of the Voice to Parliament, Thomas Mayo (pictured), spoke about making compensation for Indigenous people a reality during an unearthed video from 2020
‘Pay the Rent’ for example, how do we do that in a way that is transparent and that actually sees reparations and compensation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people beyond what we say and do at a rally?’ he said.
The ‘Pay the Rent’ movement wants homeowners to voluntarily pay a percentage of their income to Aboriginal elders without any government oversight or intervention.
When asked about this by 2GB broadcaster Ben Fordham on Tuesday, Mr Parkin responded: ‘It’s got nothing to do with the Voice.’
‘The Voice has absolutely, and has always been about, getting to the nub of those real issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in communities (such as) health, education,’ he said.
‘Everyone’s talking about their young people, whether it’s in urban areas, remote areas. I was out at Barunga last week, they’re worried about their young people’s futures. That’s what the Voice will be focused on.’
If approved at the referendum later this year, an Aboriginal-only body will be set up – with its role enshrined in Australia’s constitution – to make input and advise upon any bill before parliament which will impact indigenous people.
Mr Parkin was asked again about ‘paying the rent’ after the audio from Mr Mayo’s video was played on air.
‘It’s not the conservation that I’m having now, Ben,’ Mr Parkin responded. ‘That’s not the weight of the issues that people have been talking to me.’
‘Everyone’s going to have their say on these issues, they’re going to be able to input them into the piece, but it’ll be our mob on the ground that will hold the people on the Voice to account.’
‘They’re going to have to look them in the eye and say, ‘Well, what are you doing about clean drinking water in our communities? What are you doing about looking after our young people?’
‘These are the things Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to see action on.’
He added that there would be ‘enormous accountability on the members of the Voice’.
Mr Parkin (pictured left with the head of Indigenous Affairs and Strategic Inclusion at National Australia Bank, Eveanne Liddle), was asked about Mr Mayo’s comments on 2GB on Tuesday
Mr Mayo (pictured), said in another clip that politicians should be ‘punished’ if they ignore advice from the advisory body
Mr Mayo said in another unearthed video posted in 2021 that politicians would be ‘punished’ if they ignored advice from the advisory body.
‘The power in the Voice is that it creates the ability for First Nations to come together through representatives that they choose, representatives that they can hold accountable,’ he said.
‘And then go forth with coherent positions on how things should be – what legislation needs to be created, what legislation needs to be amended, what funding is needed and where.
‘And then be able to campaign for that, and punish politicians that ignore our advice. That is where the power comes from.’
In response to that comment, Mr Parkin said that the Yes campaign wanted to ensure politicians were ‘getting the decisions right on the issues that affect our communities’.
‘This is not a partisan shot in anyway shape or form, but over the years they (politicians) just haven’t been getting it right.’
‘We want them to be held to account more tightly on issues affecting Indigenous affairs.’
The Voice referendum is expected to be held sometime between October and December this year.