4.9. Are there global precedents for a Voice?
Though the establishment of a Voice to Parliament is still being debated in Australia, there are several examples of Indigenous representative bodies overseas. Canada, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand all have some form of a Voice to Parliament to represent their Indigenous citizens.
As Shireen Morris has documented, in Canada the government has a legal ‘duty to consult’ the Aboriginal people in accordance with the way their rights are recognised in the Canadian Constitution. The Canadian Government has a Crown duty to consider the views of Aboriginal citizens regarding legislation that impacts ‘a proven Aboriginal title’ or which may negatively affect Aboriginal rights. While there is no such duty to consult in New Zealand, the Maori people are represented by various ‘practical and process-driven’ measures. In the New Zealand Parliament, there are set numbers of seats to be filled by Maori candidates as well as the New Zealand Maori Council, which makes representations on policies regarding the Maori people. This multifaceted approach is an example of ‘recognition measures’ being employed alongside structures designed to amplify the voice of First Nations people.
Norway and Sweden have representative bodies which more closely resemble the proposed Voice to Parliament. The Sámi Parliament in Norway was formed in 1989 after the government proposed to flood a dam close to a Sámi village, potentially damaging it. The Parliament is composed of 39 members who gather four times each year and are elected for four years at a time. While the Parliament has no legislative power, it provides the Sámi people with a line of communication to the Norwegian government and thus the opportunity to affect legislation which would impact their livelihood and culture. In Sweden, the representative body of the Sámi people is a ‘government agency’ which was not developed in consultation with the Sámi people. The Sámi Parliament in Sweden does not receive the same funding as the Norwegian Parliament, and until recently, the government was not legally required to consult it. In this sense, the Sweden Sámi Parliament is a ‘weaker model’ than the proposed Australian version.