Australia’s constitution — our nation’s most significant document of governance — does not currently recognise the First Nations peoples of Australia. However, we have been continually surviving on this land (and on Earth!) for the longest. The Voice aims to advance a more harmonious relationship by formally involving our people in government decision making.
A ‘Yes’ vote signals that Australians take First Nations Australian affairs seriously. On October 15, I want to wake up proud to be Australian, to be recognised in this constitution, and to know we have a seat at the table and that we have a say in our own future.
Here are five reasons to vote ‘Yes’:
1. For recognition; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been here for more than 60,000 years. We are the oldest surviving cultures on Earth, and yet we are still not included in Australia’s 122 year-old constitution.
2. In less than 230 years, First Nations Australians have been reduced to the most disadvantaged Australians, and in some cases, populations globally. This is a human rights issue. The Voice will help advocate for Indigenous health, education, employment, and housing. It will demonstrate a commitment to protecting our rights and our futures.
3. Historically, First Nations Australian representative bodies have been set up and dismantled at the whim of changing governments. Constitutionally enshrining The Voice will mean it cannot be abolished at the flick of a pen. It will represent Australian First Nations peoples and will give independent advice to parliament and the government of the day.
4. A ‘Yes’ vote is positive and a step in the right direction. And it is here right now — it’s unlikely we’ll get a chance like this again for many years. ‘No’ changes nothing. ‘No’ is what we have now. ‘No’ has been the reverberating reality for generations.
5. Over 80% of First Nations Australians support the Yes vote. We also asked for this. On the May 27 2017, The Uluru Statement from the Heart was shared an invitation from First Nations Australians, to ALL Australians to walk together towards a new future. The Voice is the first step on this shared journey.
And three myths about the Voice, dispelled:
1. First Nations sovereignty will not be impacted by either the Voice or constitutional recognition. Our sovereignty as First Nations people cannot be extinguished by the Australian constitution. It can only be ceded through agreement made with us. The referendum makes no reference to sovereignty.
2. The Voice has nothing to do with and will not impact private property rights. We are not coming for your backyards.
3. The Voice is merely (simply, and so minimally, after the many years of abhorrent disadvantage) an advisory body. Parliament will still be responsible for laws, programs and funding. Parliament will also decide what the Voice looks like.
‘No’ changes nothing. My great grandmother was told ‘No’ when she was taken from her traditional lands; my grandmother was told ‘No’ when she was under a curfew and not allowed to enter the town during certain hours; my mum was told ‘No’ when she was born in Australia, but was not classified as an Australian citizen. I hope my children can be told ‘Yes’ and be included in the fabric of this nation.
In 1967 we were counted. We are now asking to be heard.
Right wrongs. Write Yes.