A First Nations Voice: Institutionalising Political Listening

AuthorEddie Synot,Gabrielle Appleby
Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
A First Nations Voice:
Institutionalising Political
Gabrielle Appleby* and Eddie Synot**
The Uluru Statement from the Heart offers an opportunity to reorder the Australian constitu-
tional hierarchy as it relates to First Nations. The proposal for a First Nations Voice provides a
tailored, structural response to the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
under the Australian state. For the First Nations Voice to meet this potential, it will require more
than careful design of the Voice as a new constitutional institution; it will require existing con-
stitutional institutions within the legislature and executive to learn to ‘listen’. This article draws on
the political and democratic listening literature to examine how political listening might be prac-
tised at the interface between the First Nations Voice and existing constitutional institutions. We
suggest five principles to guide this cross-institutional relationship together with ways these
principles might be incorporated into governance structures.
I Introduction
In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart (‘the Uluru Statement’) fundamentally shifted the
debate regarding the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Uluru Statement’s reforms begin wi th the constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations
Voice, a new institutional structure to facilitate the provision of the views of First Nations to
Parliament and the Executive prior to the development of policies and laws that affect them. This
* Professor, UNSW Law. We would like to thank Sean Brennan, Karen Drake, Paul Kildea, Liora Lazarus, Dylan Lino and
Vanessa MacDonnell for helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this article. We would also like to thank Megan Davis
and Rebecca La Forgia for stimulating our ideas about constitutional listening that form the basis of this article. The author
may be contacted at g.appleby@unsw.edu.au.
** Manager, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law. The author may be contacted at e.synot@unsw.edu.au.
1. First Nations Constitutional Convention, ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ [2017] Indigenous Law Resourc es 1;
Referendum Council, Final Report of the Referendum Council (Report, 30 June 2017) <https://www.
referendumcouncil.org.au/sites/default/files/report_attachments/Referendum_Council_Final_Report.pdf>. We use the
language of ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and ‘First Nations’, which reflects the language of the Uluru
Federal Law Review
2020, Vol. 48(4) 529–542
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0067205X20955068

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