The Voice not an issue in the big bush



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”.


  1. The proposed Voice needs to be an issue of great discussion or like so much in the past, Aboriginal people will simply be over run again.
    Flippantly putting it aside, with a view of our council does it this way and the NT government made another big mistake with an amalgamation of councils mid 2000s, does not address this pieces issues, does it?
    “Not knowing those people” is not a useful approach to dealing with the on coming changes.
    This is mostly an article about the Mayor of Tennant Creek’s opinions and descriptions of their own little worlds.
    The Voice is a little larger and the discussions about it will come to all of Australia, including the NT.
    What ramifications it will have over the next 10 years, 50 years or whatever timescale, no-one knows?
    Opinions are only predictions at this moment. There is no need for ears if there are no sounds … we need both, however the discussion is organised, it seems to me.

  2. Erwin, the headline “The Voice not an issue in the big bush” is IMHO a bit misleading.
    The opinions and comments by the several people featured in the article are all valid but to then assert that “The Voice is not an issue in the big bush” is jumping to conclusions.
    Mayor McLaughlin refers to the amalgamation of local councils into supershires on the coattails of the Intervention as the “worst thing”.
    One lasting effect of this “worst thing” is that in effect we no longer have a local council. Our local council (part of the regional council) is being micromanaged from Alice Springs, as is almost everything else here in Yuendumu.
    That the various councils don’t discuss the Voice doesn’t surprise me. The people in power who hold the purse strings are not all nice. Their vassals buying into the Voice discussion may be interpreted as rocking the boat. Open honest discussion and differing opinions are not tolerated.
    Erwin, you are probably right in that the Voice is not a big issue out here in the bush. Incarceration, police militarisation and behaviour. Football. The ever present threat from “welfare”. The non-existent self determination.
    These are all issues which take precedence over the Voice. All the same, it wouldn’t surprise me if most Yuendumu residents end up voting YES. I certainly will.

  3. Note to Trev: There is no need for ears if you don’t listen to what is being said.
    The following Quote from Mayor McLaughlin sums up the entire problem with the Voice on the ground.
    “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.
    It seems to me Trev is not listening or can’t hear.

  4. My opposition to the proposed Constitutional Voice is based on its promoting racial discrimination in Australia, which Australian voters clearly rejected in 1967.
    Prime Minister Harold Holt’s promotion of the change to Constitution Section 51(xxvi) was regarded by many as a scheme to support his attempt to limit numbers of Senators, everyone should at least re-read PM Holt’s short second reading speech on Wednesday, 1 March 1967, or the entire debate.
    Al Grassby remains one of my favourite Ministers, for his efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in Australia.
    Al Grassby repealed the law that required Indigenous Australians to seek permission before going overseas, he campaigned for more immigration from non-English-speaking countries, and he banned “racially selected sporting teams” from playing in Australia.
    Exists a long term conflict between what government(s) of Australia want and what Australian voters want.
    Prime Minister Albanese is clearly promoting racial discrimination, which clearly ends our legal equality of legal rights and legal responsibilities.
    The Voice will reduce ability of regional communities to directly seek assistance for their own needs.

  5. I agree Stephen, there are 14 nations and ALL deserve a say in this “voice” referendum, but you know what, its been driven by east coast suburban mobs who are not attached to the real country areas, so they not need to talk to them. they do not know their issues and what’s best for them.
    I am all for some sort of representation within the government to deal with Aboriginal affairs, but this Voice is not the answer.
    Politicians need to visit and talk to these various countries and help each. not just group them all together because one does not fit all.
    How may countries are there 350 or more and all have equal right in a Voice, but they are not going to get it.
    The government won’t agree to that. Too hard basket. I know many that disagree with this line about the Voice and will VOTE “NO”. They don’t want division, they want unification.

  6. The voice is pointless for the reasons this article points out.
    Journalists asking if the voice is of concern. Instead they should not be asking anything. They should be listening.
    No point having a voice if no one is listening.
    The whites are too busy arguing amongst themselves when they need to listening.
    Katita we said they could have their land back and them the whites changed the law so money could continue to move.
    In 1985 handback was given only after control was placed back in the hands of those that control the movement of money.
    The locals know this voice will do nothing so what is the point.
    Money is more important then people so better to spend the money required for the referendum on local projects for local people.
    The average Australian is too concerned with buying bright shiny things. Something the Indigenous have no interest in.
    Why do you think the Indigenous kids are destroying our bright shiny things? They know it is a false economy and our weak point.
    They are clever. Far more clever then the capitalist white fella.

  7. Yea the “Voice” seems like a big scam to me, in lots of ways.
    So far I have heard only one good argument for it, as follows: If the “Voice” had been in place when Mal Brough and John Howard were thinking up the intervention one weekend, they probably wouldn’t have been able to implement it so quickly.
    There would have been at least a little more debate before they continued to ignore the “Voice”.


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