By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Voice is not on the agenda of two of the three local governments in the Central Australian bush, and it is understood that this is also the case with the MacDonnell Regional Council.
Its President, Roxanne Kenny, via a minder, and in response to a personal contact sent to her via text, declined requests for an interview. The News could not find any reference to the Voice on the website of the Council over which Ms Kenny presides.
Adrian Dixon (at right), President of the Central Desert Regional Council, said the Voice had not been spoken about in the council and there had been no consultation about the Voice.
“We don’t know the people who are pushing it,” he said today. “The people on the ground don’t know who they are.”
And Barkly Mayor Jeffrey McLaughlin says: “We don’t need a Voice, we want an Ear first.”
His council looks after an area quite a lot bigger than Victoria, is eight times the size of Switzerland but has just 8000 people, many with English as their second or third language, and “14 nations,” as he puts it.
The Voice has not made it onto the Barkly council’s agenda: No-one has brought it up.
In fact the people of the Barkly Regional Council, whose major centre is Tennant Creek, already have their own voice and their local government has an ear.
The Cultural Awareness Committee, representing the region’s Indigenous people who make up 65% of the population, workshops on the day before every council meeting, and gives it advice.
Mayor McLaughlin (at left) says the Council is adamantly a-political. It appears he is cautious lest the national Voice haggle should contaminate that policy.
He says the “14 nations” are setting the council’s agenda while – on the present uncertain indications – the Constitution embedded Voice will merely need to be listened to.
Mayor McLaughlin makes it clear that what his constituents say are instructions to the council, not suggestions.
It’s a delicate job: The “14 nations,” defined by language and tribal traditions, are keenly protective of their respective parts of the country.
In Aboriginal lore and law no outsider is permitted to talk about someone else’s country. This makes council service provision a delicate task, says Mayor McLaughlin.
In that context the formation by the NT Government of the current super shires in 2007/08 was the “worst thing,” amalgamating smaller councils.
“Elliott used to be a town with its own council. Utopia, Ampilatwatja had their own councils.”
Mayor McLaughlin comes to his job from an unusual background: Managing, producing or working with bands such as young Warrumpi, Tjupi and Midnight Oil’s Makarrata Project.
In between he had a taste of Canberra projects, “throwing money at things”.