« Back to Publications

Why guaranteed Indigenous seats in parliament could ease inequality

Dominic O’Sullivan writes in The Conversation (20.3.17) that guaranteed parliamentary representation for Indigenous Australians would reduce the distance between policymakers and the people for whom policy is made.

‘New South Wales Greens MP Dawn Walker used her inaugural speech this month to argue for guaranteed Indigenous parliamentary representation. The argument for designated seats is not a new one. It was considered and rejected by the Carr state government in 1998; Indigenous people would continue to compete for democratic voice like other minority groups.

‘Walker’s concern is for a secure and “direct [Indigenous] voice in our democracy”. New Zealand’s Indigenous population has had this voice since 1867.

‘In 2017, New Zealand’s unicameral parliament has seven designated Maori seats. From 1867 to 2017, Maori have almost always had cabinet membership and a recognised capacity to influence policymaking.

‘… Australia’s democracy is not well equipped to consider the implications of prior occupancy, culture or colonial legacy. Democratic structure determines whether public decisions are the outcome of an inclusive political process. It determines whether people have had equal opportunities to contribute to decision-making, and it is reasonable to expect Indigenous people to require some benefit in return for recognising the legitimacy of the state.

‘Guaranteed parliamentary representation is not the only mechanism for ensuring Indigenous political voice. It may not, ultimately, be one that Indigenous Australians choose to pursue. However, it is one that has served New Zealand Maori well for 150 years, and is worth considering [in Australia].’

The TJRyan Foundation does not guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of any information or material available on this website. The TJRyan Foundation reserves the right to change information or material on this website at any time without notice. Links from this site to external, non-TJRyan Foundation websites should not be construed as implying any relationship with and/or endorsement of the external site or its content by the TJR Foundation, nor any commercial relationship with the owners of any external site. Should any TJRyan research project be funded by an individual or organisation the source of funding will be stated beside the research report. In all other cases contributions are provided on a pro bono basis.
Receive the latest news

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get notified about new articles

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.