Marcia Langton Interview

by | Sep 19, 2023 | Ability News, Canberra, Disability Community

After speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday 6th September, Voice advocate Marcia Langton sat down with Ability News editor Nic Stuart to discuss the referendum. He spoke to her specifically about how, if passed, the changes are likely to impact on first nations people with disability.

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The interview has been edited for clarity and meaning. 

Nic  

What is it that you are hoping that the voice could actually do for people with disability?

Marcia  

Well, one in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live with a disability. We received submissions from them, both oral and written. And as a result of our inquiries, our recommendation in our voice co-design report was that the national voice should have a permanent advisory body made up entirely of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live with a disability, because their issues are of such high priority.

Nic  

Do more indigenous people have a disability and are there different answers for people from an indigenous background?

Marcia  

Oh, yes, of course, because there’s so much diversity. You know, there’s cultural diversity. And, you know, there’s physical diversity with respect to disabilities, and some are unseen, you know, some are invisible disabilities. But also, we have geographic diversity. So there are all sorts of issues. 

We need, for instance, new housing in Aboriginal communities to have ramps, wide hallways, hold bars and so on. There are all sorts of issues, and they relate to culture, geography, jurisdiction, and medical services, and, of course, the NDIS.

Nic  

Do you think there may be different cultural answers, that western models of disability may be inappropriate for indigenous communities?

Marcia  

Yes, well, that’s very obvious. Because especially in some communities, we have close kinship groups, and where you have, you know, very defined kinship responsibilities. And I’ve seen that with my own eyes. It’ll be different in other places [because] we have huge cultural diversity. That is why we need the voice. That is why we need better co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their communities, so that they get the policies and the responses that they actually need and want.

Nic  

And finally, do you think that there may be a way in which the voice can help to combat Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder?

Marcia 

I do, I really do. FASD and acquired brain injury of other types as well. Of course we need to tackle the unhealthy use of alcohol. We need to tackle Alcohol Management. We need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be listened to. If they want restrictions they should have restrictions, rather than government flip-flopping and removing the restrictions, creating mayhem. And then, you know, pundits blame Aboriginal people. [Communities] have been demanding alcohol restrictions and demanded that restrictions stay in place, yet they weren’t listened to. Governments have created an absolute disaster by not listening to them. So yes, [the voice can help with this]. Ensuring the education of young women before they become pregnant, to understand that they will cause their children lifelong disabilities, if they consume alcohol is of the highest priority. And of course, governments don’t respond adequately.