Former Kimberley Land Council head Nolan Hunter says there is “a level of disadvantage” in WA’s north that can only be helped if the First Nations Voice to Parliament is voted in later this year. The Bardi Jawi Yawuru man is at the forefront of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a senior leader of the Uluru Dialogue, and was a co-convenor of the 2016 Regional Dialogue in Broome. In the lead up to the referendum, expected in the second half of 2023, Mr Hunter spoke with the Broome Advertiser about what a First Nation’s Voice to Parliament would mean to the Kimberley, where about 50 per cent of the population identifies as Indigenous. “It’s a simple, minimal change to the Constitution, in simple wording, that will mean Indigenous people can have a voice about those legislative frameworks and policies that affect them,” he said. Under Labor’s proposed plan, three new paragraphs would be added to the Constitution, stating the existence of an Indigenous body which will have the ability to make “representations to Parliament . . . on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”. “It is a voice to government or parliament, not a voice in government, or parliament,” said Mr Hunter. “It means the Government can’t just make laws, policies or decisions on our behalf without making sure that we have a seat at the table.” These constitutional changes seek to target those issues which he believes Government-funded services and programs cannot solve in the Kimberley. “Service delivery or funding programs can’t change [the Kimberley’s social-construct issues. There is a level of disadvantage (there) that didn’t just happen by accident,” he said. The latest census data exemplifies this level of disparity among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the Kimberley, where the average weekly income differs on a ratio of one to three. A report produced by Rural Health West in 2020 revealed Halls Creek and Derby/West Kimberley — with an Indigenous population of 70 and 60 per cent respectively — as having some of the lowest socio-economic rates in Australia. According to the research, areas with high rates of a low socio-economic population correlate with high rates of poor health. “(This disadvantage) is continuously propelled year-in, year-out by the data this country sees of the shameful and alarming social and economic circumstances of Indigenous people,” said Mr Hunter. “So, let’s not dilly dally about the politicians deciding our fate. Let’s put it to the Australian people.” It comes after a new poll revealed almost twice as many West Australians support the Indigenous voice to Parliament as are against it. There has been mixed reaction to the constitution at a Federal level, with Nationals leader David Littleproud confirming the party would oppose the motion. In November, Mr Littleproud said the consultative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians would not help close the Indigenous disadvantage gap and could not be supported. He said individual MPs would decide whether to campaign against the proposal. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has not yet revealed whether the Liberal Party would support a referendum but has called for more detail about the advisory body. The vote is expected later this year with Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney claiming it could be held as early as August.