by Peter Trethewey, AQA CEO

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following story contains an image of a deceased person.

On the 14th October Australians will vote on whether to change the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament; an advisory body that will speak on issues that affect First Nations communities.

At AQA we always seek to interrogate and refine our reasons for acting. It strikes many of us that there are strong connections between the world we’re working towards and the recognition of the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

AQA’s vision is of an inclusive community where people have the resources they need to live well. Promoting our right to choice, control and self-determination is one the most potent tools we have for achieving that vision. 

These were the very core principles promised by the NDIS that saw AQA join the community campaign for changes to a system that was broken and not serving people with disabilities. The importance of choice, control and the responsibility that comes with empowerment and self-determination is at the heart of living well. Putting the person at the center, listening to a person’s experience, their goals and aspirations and then creating a plan with a shared responsibility for outcomes is fundamental to living well with disability.       

While the exact form the Voice will take will be decided by the Parliament, we have been given a clear sense of the parameters that will contain it, and the principles that will guide it. We know that it will be an advisory body that a significant number of First Nations peoples and organisations say is a step in the right direction for their communities, giving them more of a say on issues that affect them, and consequently more of a chance of improving life outcomes for First Nations peoples. 

Kevin Coombs has generously shared his perspective on the opportunity presented by the upcoming referendum. Kevin is a remarkable person in the SCI community, the Paralympic movement and in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. 

His 83 years includes his personal lived experience as an Indigenous man and, from the age of 12, as a person with a physical disability. In his professional life he has first hand experience of Australia’s steps forward and back in Health, Education, Housing, Justice and community attitudes. As always, Kevin shares his perspective with grace, respect and good humour. Kevin has a rare mix of insights, many of them hard won, and we encourage you to take a moment to hear them. 

Kevin Coombs is a giant within First Nations communities and the SCI community.
  • September 25, 2023

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