Rowan Dean: We don’t need a Voice because we already have one

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Rowan Dean

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Rowan Dean

13 March 2023

4:00 AM

As readers know, I occasionally like to be the bearer of good news and today I am delighted to tell you that I have just saved the federal government an absolute fortune, in fact, I’ve saved Jim Chalmers’ first proper budget literally billions and billions of dollars. Jim, you can thank me later, it’s fine, or just buy me a drink sometime. Not only that, I have saved the nation from tearing itself apart for no reason whatsoever over a ridiculously expensive and highly divisive 2023. You see, tomorrow morning all Anthony Albanese and Linda Burney need to do is stand at the top of the steps at Parliament House and proudly announce: ‘Good news, Australia – we don’t need an Indigenous Voice to Parliament – because we already have one!‘

Yes, and it’s even got a funky cool video to boot and a pretty good name which is the National Indigenous Australians Agency. Or NIAA. So what do the NIAA do exactly? Good question. Well, according to their website, the NIAA says that their ‘Vision‘ is for: ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are heard, recognised and empowered’. Now, that’s a laudable one, to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are recognised and empowered … and heard! But let’s be clear, by definition, you can only be heard if you already possess a voice!

But it gets better! The NIAA’s purpose, according to the website, is to enable the self-determination of First Nations communities – which is pretty much exactly what the Uluru Statement from the Heart wants the Voice to do. But more importantly, the NIAA, ‘works to ensure Indigenous Australians have a say in the decisions that affect them.’ Have a say? Hang on, let’s just check my online Thesaurus here and … Holy Moly stone the crows! To ‘have a say’ means exactly the same as ‘to have a voice’!

This is incredible! We already have a powerful, purposeful Indigenous Australian body that has a Voice! And what do the NIAA do with that Voice? Well, quite a bit as it happens. Again, quoting their own words, with their ‘say’, or should I say, their ‘voice’ they ‘support the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to ensure that First Nations peoples achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.’

Excellent, good stuff. Great work. We need to close that gap. Glad they’re onto it. On top of which, they ‘improve economic opportunities and outcomes for First Nations peoples and businesses.’

Let’s give a big tick to that. That’s a must-do. And it’s exactly, funnily enough, what Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine talk a lot about as well. Then the NIAA say they ‘assist in the maintenance of Indigenous cultural expression and conservation’.

Good, because that’s important. We want to preserve Indigenous cultural expression, and obviously, you can’t do that without having a say, or should I say, having a Voice, so that’s all tickety-boo. Moving on the NIAA also ‘support the wellbeing of First Nations peoples through early childhood development, school attendance and attainment, and post-school pathways’.

Well, hello. Alice Springs, anyone? Yes, childhood development, education, and employment opportunity are exactly what is needed, no question, to solve so many Indigenous problems and disadvantage, and finally the NIAA ‘enhances regional governance and local decision-making’.

Brilliant. That pretty much ticks every single box that the Voice people want the Voice to do as well, almost word for word! But this mob don’t need a referendum to get on with it; they are already doing it! Full marks to the NIAA! But wait, there’s more: according to the website they have been instructed, under an executive order from the Governor-General no less, that among their numerous responsibilities this organisation must, ‘…provide advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Australians on whole-of-government priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

Bingo! In a nutshell, that’s kind of the whole point of the Voice! To provide not only the Prime Minister but the Parliament with advice on indigenous priorities. But hang on – that does raise one tiny little question. I hate to be a party pooper, but what if the advice to the Prime Minister from the NIAA is the complete opposite to the advice from the Voice? (Oh, jeez there you go again Rowan, always the killjoy, always pouring cold water on everything. I know, I know, I’m sorry.)

But back to the NIAA. Who exactly are these wonderful people already doing the job that the Voice people say that we need a Voice to do? Well, there’s Jody Broun, she’s the CEO of the NIAA and she is a Yindjibarndi woman from the Pilbara in Western Australia. According to the NIAA website, CEO Jody has maintained strong connections to country, to community, and to culture throughout her life.

Is there an echo in here? Because that’s what the Voice people keep insisting the Voice is all about, maintaining grassroots links to indigenous communities, culture, and country. But that’s just for starters! Jody is also passionate about social justice (very good, the luvvies will like that), she’s passionate about community-led co-design – there’s that Voice echo again! – and she’s passionate about changing the way government does business with Aboriginal communities and stakeholders. Jody! You legend! That’s precisely the whole point of the Voice and you, you little ripper, you’re already doing it! And it’s not as if Jodie and her team don’t have plenty of resources to do it all with, because I know that’s your next question! Jody and the NIAA have got a lot on their plate. Where’s the dosh coming from?

Well, from you and me, actually. According to the NIAA’s annual report, last year Jody and her team spent nearly 290 million dollars on expenses. That’s a lot of dosh, so they must have been able to achieve a hell of a lot of good stuff for Indigenous Australia with that amount of money. You’ll notice, of course, that 165-odd million of that went on salaries and wages, superannuation, defined benefits, and so on, so hopefully everybody is being well-paid for doing this invaluable work.

As for the total cashload, the NIAA’s total cash from the official public account is just over 2 billion dollars. So that’s good. It’s a lot of money for sure, but, hey, all in a good cause!

But sadly, the Aussie taxpayer, always generous to a fault, isn’t necessarily so flush with cash that it can afford two Voices, both basically doing the same sort of job. So here’s my plan to save the Australian taxpayer literally billions of dollars and make Anthony Albanese’s life a whole lot easier.

All we have to do is change one word in the name of the NIAA – change the word ‘Agency’ (which let’s face it, is a bit tainted by association with things like Real Estate Agency or, heaven forbid, Advertising Agency) to the much better word Voice… Voila! the NIAA becomes the NIAV – NIAV!!! – the National Indigenous Australians Voice!

There you have it. Why vote Yes to a billion-dollar Indigenous Voice to Parliament, when we already have one?

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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