Why Ethical Partners Funds Management supports the First Nations Voice to Parliament

August 15, 2023
Market Thoughts & Insights

Ethical Partners understand that it is time for real, practical, and structural reform that follows through with what First Nations called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It is clear that our First Nations peoples have experienced longstanding and entrenched disadvantage, which is clearly reflected in the continued failure to improve the majority of the 19 indicators in the Close the Gap report.

We believe that the Voice, as defined by the Referendum questions and proposed constitutional amendments has the potential to further the much-needed social outcomes for our First Nations peoples, as well as benefit the environmental outcomes for all Australians, as further detailed below.

We furthermore believe that failure of current policy and legislative efforts to address the entrenched disadvantage of our First Nations peoples morally and ethically constitutes a need for a new and constitutionally protected approach to collaboration, and for an advisory body empowered to make representations directly to parliament on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which we believe will help enable more informed and efficient decision making by parliament, and help address the embedded power and access disadvantage of our Indigenous peoples.

As such, and consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we fundamentally believe that our First Nations people should have a constitutionally protected, clear and streamlined mechanism to consult and have a say on the laws, policies and services that impact their lives. We furthermore believe the current referendum to institute a consultative Indigenous Voice, enshrined in the constitution, enacted by the democratically elected parliament, and providing a direct pathway to make representations to the parliamentary executive, could provide this necessary mechanism in a fair and practical way.

We also draw on the advice of the Law Council, who have concluded that this proposed amendment is constitutionally sound, just, will not take any rights from or harm any person, and provides a ‘’substantive”’ mechanism for change and an opportunity to improve the lives of First Nations Peoples.

Our support also aligns to our Draft Reconciliation Action Plan, which is currently undergoing the approval process with Reconciliation Australia, and our previous advocacy regarding the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process in 2021, on which we made a submission in response to the report of the Co-design committee, which can be found here: https://www.ethicalpartners.com.au/post/interim-report-to-the-australian-government-indigenous-voice-co-design-process-2021.

It furthermore reflects our previous commitments to addressing the SDG goals through our investments, engagements, and advocacy, noting the marked disadvantage of Indigenous and First Nations Peoples in many SDG goal areas, in particular SDG 3 on health and SDG 4 on Education. It also reflects our clear understanding that many of the key environmental crisis that responsible investors, such as Ethical Partners are aiming to address, including Natural Capital and Biodiversity loss, will require drawing on the immense reserves of Indigenous wisdom and the active participation of our First Nations peoples to remediate, and it is our hope that the voice will enable a more active voice for First Nations peoples in our National responses to these crisis.

We would also concur with RIAA (Responsible Investment Association of Australia), who state that ‘’building a better future for First Nations Australians is of critical importance for our whole nation, and indeed the future prosperity of all our people and our economy, and hence makes strong sense from a responsible investment and sustainable finance perspective”..As part of our research regarding our support for the Voice, Ethical Partners has facilitated education for our staff, attending sessions with Thomas Mayo, Kerry O’Brien, Professor Tom Calma, the Honourable Tom Bathurst, Kate Carnell AO and MP Julian Leeser, as well as sharing the legal opinions of the Honourable Robert French

We are also pleased to note that several portfolio companies, including CBA, Wesfarmers, NAB and Qantas have publicly supported the First Nations Voice to Parliament, and we look forward to continuing to engage with these companies on their own internal reconciliation actions, as well as their welcome public advocacy for First Nations people’s rights.

We also look forward to continuing to advance our own reconciliation actions internally, to better consultation as investors with First Nations Peoples, and to better understanding how we, as responsible investors can ensure First Nations voice are heard, their wisdom utilised, and their SDG outcomes supported through our investment processes, engagements and advocacy.

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