RACGP backs Voice to Parliament

Matt Woodley

13/07/2023 4:59:39 PM

The constitutional change would help drive changes to improve outcomes for Indigenous people and address health system inequity, the college says.

Dr Nicole Higgins with Dr Karen Nicholls
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins with Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. (Image: Alex Kasap)

The RACGP has officially endorsed the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution.
The position was revealed early on Thursday morning in a joint announcement attended by college President Dr Nicole Higgins and Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.
‘The Voice to Parliament will help drive changes to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and address the inequity in our health system,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘The RACGP’s position on the Voice builds on our previous advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health, including our endorsement of the Uluru Statement from the Heart recommendations, and our commitment to close the gap in health inequality.’
Meanwhile, Dr Nicholls told newsGP that she is proud to be part of a college that is taking a public stance on the Voice to Parliament, which represents the underlying value of self-determination and the goal of improving health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
‘It’s really important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are part of the solution, that they are placed in a position where they are able to have a say on any laws or decisions that are going to impact their communities,’ she said.
‘This is not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue, and it is about Indigenous peoples being able to have self-determination and a say in issues that affect their lives.
‘We remain respectful on whether people support the Voice to Parliament or not, but I think we can all acknowledge that what we’re doing at the moment is not leading to the health outcomes that we would want.’
Despite Australia boasting some of the best health outcomes in the world, including being in the top five for life expectancy, little progress has been made regarding the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Child mortality is twice that of non-Indigenous children, the life expectancy gap remains at about eight years (and equivalent to developing countries like Palestine and Guatemala), and there is a burden of disease 2.3 times greater than that of non-Indigenous Australians.
‘Perhaps doing something different and a change to the status quo is what’s needed,’ Dr Nicholls said.
Research clearly shows the links between constitutional recognition and improved health outcomes. It makes recognition in health legislation easier, which leads to greater involvement in health policy making and service delivery.
There is evidence of this from the many other countries that have already established models for constitutional and treaty recognition, including New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and Norway, and it’s time that Australia followed suit.’
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health Voice to Parliament


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Dr Christopher Jakob Topovsek   14/07/2023 6:26:27 AM

When did we vote for this position?

Dr Elissa Fay Armitage   14/07/2023 6:54:08 AM

‘It’s really important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are part of the solution, that they are placed in a position where they are able to have a say on any laws or decisions that are going to impact their communities,’ she said.“ I’m confused: don’t all Australians already have a right to vote, a right to join local council, join parliament, be elected no matter your skin color? Why divide us on skin color? I’m so confused as to why division is desired by doctors. Why will health outcomes be improved for some people with more “ us and them” speak and behavior? I have missed some important evidence somewhere. Why do people at risk all over the world, flee HERE, if our constitution is rotten? Perhaps we are blaming “The Constitution” when in fact the root cause of poor health outcomes lie elsewhere? Please everyone, let us unite and not divide our communities. Love one another from the heart, not because a law “makes you” love your Neighbour. Be kind and serve others.

Dr Vincent Mario Galtieri   14/07/2023 7:29:10 AM

Did I miss the Membership survey that voted for the College to take this stance?

Dr Jing Zhao   14/07/2023 8:07:09 AM

What about other groups of population eg asian? Do they have a voice? And RACGP is professional organisation not a political party, so please do not give opinions on political issues on behalf of members

Dr Benjamin Weiss   14/07/2023 8:45:51 AM

When the RACGP backed the Voice to Parliament did you take a vote amongst the members-NO,NO,NO.So who made the decision? How can you back something not knowing what the individual members want.This referendum is for individuals to make up their own mind and then vote.

Dr Stuart Crowther Burton   14/07/2023 9:37:41 AM

Well said Dr. Elissa Armitage. This is a referendum for private citizens. I don't recall being asked, as a life member of our college, what the college position should be. As Dr. Jing Zhao states we are a professional college NOT a political party.

Dr Richard Newton   14/07/2023 9:59:56 AM

As above - nobody asked me as a Fellow if I wanted to be thus represented....

Dr Daniel Petrus Jacobus Bothma   14/07/2023 10:20:17 AM

I expect the College to be impartial in political situations like this or you risk alienating a significant percentage of your members who do not share this opinion.
Do not state the opinion of a few of your biased board members and presume you speak for the members of this organization. We may just resign our membership and take it to someone that will represent OUR issues (Medicare, AHPRA, etc.) and stay out of polarizing party politics. Very irritated with this.

Dr Stephen Windley   14/07/2023 10:29:32 AM

Backing the (current) Voice to Parliament is akin to signing a blank check.
ATSI health is vitally important, but ill thought out and incomplete political machinations have NEVER helped before!
Plus the obvious issues of virtue signalling that are pervasive in this current campaign.

Dr Trevor David Hoffman   14/07/2023 10:54:31 AM

The Voice is an intelligent, rational and non-political means towards improving ATSIC health and I strongly support the College's endorsement of the Voice amendment

Dr Clifford John Fisher   14/07/2023 11:12:35 AM

This is a referendum for all individual voters. Organisations should not be involved in the process.

Dr Douglas Wallace McKenzie   14/07/2023 11:22:26 AM

The Voice referendum is an individual matter - I don't remember consensus on this issue from College members. Having worked remotely, I suspect The Voice will make no difference to remote communities but just create another layer of bloated, ineffective bureaucracy like ATSIC, which imploded in 2005.

Dr Nicholas Kery   14/07/2023 11:55:56 AM

I agree that the members should have been consulted before any political statement was made. I see no benefit to the aboriginal people, simply because a voice is enshrined in our Constitution. If the government hasn't listened to the aboriginal people until now, why would a voice in our Constitution make any difference. Possibly, because of the threat of legal action. That's no way to go. Linda Berney's argument is that "aboriginal people have a much higher rate rheumatic heart disease" and she says "it's totally preventable". This begs the question, if it's totally preventable and she knows it, why does she need a voice to Parliament to prevent it? Further, "doing something different" is hardly an argument for going down the rabbit hole of changing our Constitution.

Dr Ross Lachlan Stuart Wylie   14/07/2023 1:07:04 PM

I strongly support the college endorsement and feel proud that it has followed other colleges in doing so.
More than 20 sporting codes have joined together giving their support, we as doctors should follow their lead because giving First Nations people’s a voice is likely to improve health outcomes.

Dr Paul Francis Innis   14/07/2023 1:36:48 PM

I thnkg that we can advance aboriginal health without chaning the Australian constitution. The RACGP is in error if it is assumed that all GP's will vote yes. I for one will be voting no.

Dr Nicholas Nicola   14/07/2023 1:56:21 PM

Without detail of what this all means, how can the college support this? Since when can polititians just 'be trusted'?

Dr Saluay Kidson   14/07/2023 2:09:20 PM

Suggest you all read today's essay by Henry Ergas, and the many fine articles by Jacinta Price. As many have noted, we did Not vote for this and I am angry that, once again, the RACGP is acting outside its scope. Suggest you focus on issues affecting General Practice rather than politics.

Dr Andrew Robert Jackson   14/07/2023 2:34:58 PM

How was this position reached?
Did the RACGP Board members (15 in total) vote on this?

What was the result of the vote if so?
Which Board members voted in favour, and which against? This should be made public to members in the interests of accountability and transparency and good governance.

If there was a Board vote, and if it was 'unanimous', then this would demonstrate that the Board is heavily biased in its collective views given that national support for the voice is currently well under 50% and dropping. For this reason alone the Board should not be adopting the arrogant position that all members are in agreement, pretty clearly already they are not.

Dr Stephen Bernard Shorey   14/07/2023 3:10:46 PM

In the words of Thomas Mayo one of the principal architects of the Voice:
“The power in the Voice is that it creates the ability for First Nations to come together through representatives that they choose, representatives that they can hold accountable and then go forth with coherent positions on how things should be, what legislation needs to be created, what legislation needs to be amended, what funding is needed and where and then be able to campaign for that and punish politicians that ignore our advice. That is where the power comes from.”
Snapshots of Communists in Australian History, part of the celebrations marking 100 years of communism in Australia, March 22, 2021.

These words make it seem less benign in intent and the fact those appointed to the voice are not elected concerns me even more. If a Voice is to be created, why not legislate first so at least it will demonstrate how it works and be accountable if it goes down the ATSIC path to corruption?

Dr Ingrid Teresa Smethurst   14/07/2023 3:13:35 PM

I thoroughly applaud the college for making a potentially politically challenging choice, but making the right choice, nonetheless. Congratulations on your bravery and commitment to First Nations Justice. I encourage all who are confused to READ the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart. It was the culmination of the most consultative process in Australian if not world history. It was a process that had bipartisan support. The only reason we don’t have bipartisan support is because of racist leadership who chose to be decisive and make the referendum political. Then they chose to amplify the voices of those who supported their decision to be negative.

Dr Colin Scott Masters   14/07/2023 4:46:38 PM

I hope the College is right. Certainly the members are behind improving Indigenous health and especially those in remote communities. Unfortunately it has proved to be a complex and difficult problem but there have been some wins over the last years. I don't see a problem with the College taking a stance, as long as the process is transparent.

Dr Nell De Graaf   14/07/2023 5:06:57 PM

RACGP should poll its members before making such statements.
Many do not support the Voice to parliament for many reasons….

Dr Robert Charles Clarke   14/07/2023 6:12:34 PM

The referendum is a political process with political outcomes. What was our Board members voting stance on this? I'll take that into account when Board elections come around.

Dr Felix Bisterbosch   14/07/2023 7:05:07 PM

the college should refrain from political statements,
and where is the the evidence that The Voice would improve the health of the indiginous community; is it real or presumed evidence? Hard to imagine it is real evidence as from the start every country is different.

Dr Lise Susan Legault   15/07/2023 8:11:56 AM

I was going to stay with racgp for another year. But that's it, I'm out. Racgp had become a far left acticist group. The voice is racist by definition and so is thr racgp.

Is the ama supporting the voice? What options are left for drs that believe all patients are equal.

We are one mob, the Aussie mob. Follow Australian Black Conservative on Facebook. She is awesome.

Always was, always will be all Australian's land.

Dr Sandra Skinner   16/07/2023 8:27:10 AM

I'm voting NO. Once again, the RACGP is making a political statement without member consensus.
‘Perhaps doing something different and a change to the status quo is what’s needed,’ Dr Nicholls said.
I agree something different is needed. Because no grand ideas from groups like RACGP have worked so far apparently. But what is "different" about throwing money at this problem - let's be real, that's what this is all about, the $ - so that a few can get rich while the many still suffer in communities you expect to live like communist utopias. I wouldn't want a community group making decisions about my health, or which doctor I get to see. Why do we expect Aboriginal people to put up with this? Separating Aboriginal people from the rest of Australia as a group, is what I see as racism.

Dr Rita Liana Ponce   16/07/2023 11:06:38 AM

Dear Doctor President
I wonder how you came up with the decision to back the The Vote...
Have you even explained to members what this is really about and how it is going to improve the ATSI health delivery , in specific and practical terms that we, local GP's( who does the groundworks) , understand.....
i shall wait and look out for your answer
Thank you..

Dr Richard Peter Sherman   17/07/2023 2:05:23 PM

Dear RACGP Board members,

I am greatly saddened that you have decided to apply the RACGP imprimatur to support the Yes case for the Voice.

You do not speak for me. You did not ask my own or other members' views on this matter.

The process leading to your decision was secretive, and it was published two weeks after membership fees were due.

In fact in this, the college appears to have mirrored the opaqueness and the deviousness of the entire Voice development process.

The College Board have made a political decision to support a far leftist activist attempt to split apart Australians on the basis of race via a Trojan horse in the guise of a Voice for reconciliation to be inserted into the Constitution.

This Voice, as it is currently worded, is irrefutably a racist proposal. The Yes side has no argument to counter this fact.

I will not remain a member of this now-racist organization. I am a doctor for all Australians equally.

Dr John Pius Caska   17/07/2023 3:42:32 PM

The reference that we should also follow sporting clubs etc is ridiculous.
My main objection is that such a contentious referendum if successful is PERMANENT.
A legislated trial is reversible.
We then have a selected committee of 22 indigenous persons who are NOT elected but appointed. Mr Albanese only tells us to vote yes & he will then decide how it all works. This group can judge " from submarines to parking tickets". 4% of our population is indigenous & control 96%. Medical problems are really only a small part of the overall problems.

Dr James Shunxian Wei   17/07/2023 9:22:23 PM

I have read the RACGP Position Statement on the Voice to Parliament.

I quote: "a significant body of research has established links between constitutional recognition and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people".

On pulling up the quoted full text articles from the MJA and Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, these articles are editorials and opinion pieces, not 'research'.

I would be interested in research to back up the link between constitutional recognition and health outcomes, but please do not cite opinion pieces and mis-represent them as 'research'.

I am appalled that the RACGP position statement has such a glaring and factual error.

Dr Isaac   17/07/2023 11:39:42 PM

Big smile from Dr Higgins in this photo... for what? What is this voice about? What is the difference from CTG? Pumping extra millions of dollars for ..? propaganda show! to keep Mr Albanese in his chair!
RACGP is a MEDICAL College NOT a POLITICAL PARTY, your job is to represent the doctors of the college, to improve medical educations, support the doctors in their career, strengthen the positions of doctors in Medicare Rebate, Strengthen the positions of GPs in the Health System, return the Medicare Item numbers that have been stolen from us! Have a strong voice with the politicians about the role and importance of General Practitioners and their work ... thats how I see the role of the college.Doing politics is not your job Dr Higgins and this is not what you have been elected for. If you want to be a politician, you are more than welcome to do so but not on the expense of the college or the doctors who voted for you! Bad move Dr Higgins and probably one term is enough for you.

Dr Wilson Chong   19/09/2023 6:06:38 AM

"The Voice" is racist and divisive. It is another layer of bureaucracy adding to an already costly public service. It is also disingenuous to associate recognition of indigenous Australians to the wholesale establishment of an u democratically elected parliament body, with no clearly defined terms or powers.

When were college members consulted as to their voting intentions? The college should stick to their remit, and not presume to speak on behalf of all its members, especially when they have not been consulted.

I also will not be renewing my membership as I don't wish for my ever increasing member fees to be supporting political activism.

Dr James McLeod   14/10/2023 11:24:14 PM

14/10/23: Well there we have it, $500,000,000 wasted on a divisive referendum that could have been spent actually listening to existing ATSI advisory bodies and helping ATSI people. What a damn shame.