Official complaint lodged regarding Referendum Council's 'invite only' regional meetings

A First Nations woman from Far North Queensland has made an official complaint to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Islander Social Justice Commissioner regarding the way the Referendum Council is conducting their Regional Dialogue meetings and called the whole complaint process a 'circus'.

Referendum Council Complaint
Image: The members of the Referendum Council were all handpicked by the government and none of them were given permission to speak on behalf of First Nations and Peoples in any way. - (not in order) Current Council Members: Pat Anderson Co-Chair, Mark Leibler Co-Chair, Megan Davis, Murray Gleeson, Tanya Hosch, Kristina Keneally, Jane McAloon, Noel Pearson, Michael Rose, Amanda Vanstone, Dalassa Yorkston and Galarrwuy Yunupingu. Past Council Members: Patrick Dodson, Mick Gooda and Stan Grant. Out of the current 13 members, more than half of them are non-Indigenous.

Copy of letter by Isobelle Anderson of the Kirjin Nation:

June Oscar AO
Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Islander Social Justice Commissioner
for the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Islander Social Justice Commission
March 2017

Dear June Oscar

I am writing this letter/email of complaint to you regarding the Referendum Council regional dialogue meetings to be held around the nation from the months of February and up unto May 2017 before the National Convention at Uluru on 24-26 May 2017.

I am a regular subscriber to the Koori Mail (The Voice of Indigenous Australia) newspaper. I read the Wednesday. February 22, 2017 Edition. On page 19 of that Edition, an Editorial news article advised of the Referendum Council's regional dialogue meetings to be held around the nation and advising of upcoming dates.

I contacted the Referendum Council to be advised that these regional dialogue meetings were by invitation only. I asked how do you get an invitation and I was advised that usually about 100 people are invited and that 60% of the invitees are Indigenous who work in community organisations and 40% of the invitees are Indigenous who work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

Ten delegates will be picked from these regional dialogue meetings to go to the National Convention at Uluru on 24-26 May 2017. Are these ten delegates proficient enough in Constitutional Law and Imperial Law to speak about the issues that are being talked about in the community they are representing? The ten delegates chosen from the Cairns regional dialogue meetings will have to represent all indigenous people from the Cairns and Tablelands area as well as the Cape York areas.

I said that the Referendum Council have to consult with the general community but that they are shutting people out and that this is discriminating against the grassroots Indigenous community who want to have a say. I said that I would like to make a complaint and they told me that they do not receive complaints. I asked for the phone number of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I dialed this number to make a complaint and they told me that they do not receive complaints but to go back to the Referendum Council website to join the discussion.

I told them that I want to make a complaint to them (The Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet) and then to forward this complaint onto The Commonwealth Ombudsman, not to join in on an on-line discussion. Again, they told me they do not accept complaints but to join the discussion on-line. If these people are employed under The Australian Public Service Amendment Act 2013 than I have a right to complain about them and to The Commonwealth Ombudsman.

To make a complaint to the Ombudsman in Canberra, I have to lodge a complaint with the Commonwealth Agency first. I cannot do this because they will not allow me to. The Reconciliation Act is not in force anymore and is replaced by the Australian Public Service Amendment Act 2013.

So I am lodging a complaint with The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission (ATSI Social Justice Commission). I was advised by the Human Rights Commission to do this. The Australian Public Service Amendment Act 2013 allows me to make a complaint to the ATSI Social Justice Commissioner and this Act also consolidates with The Ombudsman Act.

If the goal of The Referendum Council is to recognise and empower Indigenous People and to amend V, section 5(xxvi) to insert a constitutional prohibition against racial discrimination, then this is a circus joke, because the Referendum Council themselves are discriminating against grassroots Indigenous People to be shut out of Community Consultations. They are handpicking Indigenous People who may not have a background or understanding of Law, be it Domestic Law or International Law.

They are touting an Expert Panel on Law and Legislation. What a joke. I thought an Expert Panel on Law and Legislation were all law trained like the Expert Panel Constitutional Committee -Commonwealth of Australia Bill Adjustment of the 1890's. They were a Solicitors-General, an Attorneys-General, writers of the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth.

These were esteemed gentlemen of law such as-: H.B.Higgens, Sir Isaac Isaacs, John Quick and Sir Robert Garran, Alfred Deakin, Sir Samuel Griffith and Sir Edmund Barton.

Shame on the so-called Indigenous Expert Panel. Only Henry Burmeister AO QC seems to have the equivalent qualification out of the 22 hand-picked so-called Expert Panel. No, some of them are handpicked ignoramuses. What would the likes of Les Malezer, Jody Broun, Josephine Bourne, Sam Jeffries, Ken Wyatt, Rob Oakshott, Lauren Ganley, Marcia Langton, Mick Dodson and Alison Page know about Law and Legislation? The Federal Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia came from an Act of the Imperial Parliament. Who from the Expert Panel is qualified in the Imperial Laws and Imperial Legislation?

The Australian Human Rights Commission report Indigenous Peoples' Organisation Network of Australia (The Referendum Council and Reconciliation Australia are part of this Network) Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People-Australia mission dated 17-28 August 2009, att Section 6.3 Right to equality and non-discrimination, paragraph 25, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd states "we will also give attention to detailed, sensitive consultation with Indigenous communities about the most appropriate form and timing of constitutional recognition" and chapter 27 of Section 6.3 states "A crucial component for the legitimacy of any future constitutional change will be the active engagement of Indigenous Peoples in the reform process".

The lack of consultation, lack of participation and lack of engagement does not promote democratic inclusion and improved accountability and goes against the above quoted Australian Human Rights Commission Report and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) especially Article 19, and to be consulted for "legislative or administrative decisions that may affect them".

I am requesting that you investigate my formal complaint against the actions of the Referendum Council and that of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet about the systemic issues that I have identified and raised above concerning the exclusion and discrimination when the regional dialogue meetings take place around the country to which there is already a major reaction of protest from Indigenous Peoples in communities such as Perth (March3-5), Sydney (March10-12) and Cairns (March 24-26).

Yours Sincerely,

Isobelle Anderson