The ACT is leading the way in giving First Nations people a democratic voice in Australia, a senior Aboriginal leader says.
Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and a member of the advisory group on the Voice for Indigenous Australians, warned the National Press Club the proposal was "doomed to fail" unless serious shortcomings were addressed.
She said a compelling case for a shift from a voice to parliament to a voice to government had not been made, and the change had caused considerable division within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
What was now unfolding was a "convoluted and flawed process" being steered by government, not by First Nations people.
"The lesson from past failures is that Indigenous people have to be able to set up their own structures and reach decisions in their own time about how they are to be represented," Ms Turner said.
However there was one jurisdiction that had managed to give Indigenous Australians a voice.
"The state or territory that's doing the best is the ACT, in my opinion," Ms Turner said.
"It has got its own elected Aboriginal voice that advises the government on all matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Now, it's a small state, but I think that the elected voice is a standout in the ACT."
The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body was set up in 2008 to provide direct advice to the ACT government.
It holds elections every three years and holds annual hearings, where it grills ACT government officials on issues important to the Canberra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Despite this, the ACT government has drawn criticism over its poor record on Indigenous affairs in the past.
The Productivity Commission's 2020 report on government services found Aboriginal imprisonment in the ACT had grown by 279 per cent between 2009 and 2019, more than any other state. The Labor-Greens coalition has promised a review of over-representation in the system if elected.
The ACT also has one of the highest rates of Indigenous children in state care.