I know that I’m going to vote ‘Yes’ in the Voice to Parliament referendum, but why? Why do I care? A better question is, how can I not?
Professionally, I work with an incredible team, consulting on sustainability, human rights, and modern slavery to reduce the risk of harming people in supply chains across the globe. I see this, and I think about the continuous failings of our country to ‘Close the Gap’. I recognise this failing is a human rights issue, one that’s just as important as those I work to solve, and it’s happening on home soil. How can I not care?
Personally, I am lucky to have experienced the privileges that a life here affords; quality healthcare, education, safety, and democracy. And, as the daughter of two migrants, I have experienced Australia from another side; an Australia that grapples with a complex identity born out of the melting pot of cultures that call this island home. I have seen that the privileges afforded to me, have not been the experience of Indigenous Australians, and wondered, how is that fair? There is hardly any recognition that the prosperity of this country, and the opportunity it affords migrants (like my parents) and their children (like me), was born out of hundreds of years of exploitation of the land and its traditional owners; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. That’s why I care, and, why I’m voting ‘Yes’.
On October 14th, 2023, Australia will hold a referendum to change the constitution. If the ‘Yes’ vote succeeds, the changes will show democratic support for a) recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution, and b) providing Indigenous Australians the opportunity to have a say in matters that affect them. In other words, allowing Indigenous Australians ‘a fair go’; to begin reparations for the centuries of systemic racism and disadvantage that previous policies have continuously failed to do. ‘A fair go’ is something all Australians can support – that’s why I’m voting ‘Yes’.
Common criticisms of the Voice are that not all Indigenous Australians support it, and that it won’t fix everything. These are both true, and that’s ok. Firstly, it’s rare for a group of people to agree on anything. The beauty of democracy is that everyone has the right to have their say. However, recent surveys indicate that 80-90% of Indigenous Australians support the Voice and constitutional referendum. This is not surprising, as calls for the Voice come directly from the Uluru Statement from the Heart (the Statement). The Statement was written by First Nations Constitutional Convention delegates in 2017, following extensive regional dialogues and decision-making led by Aboriginal people. In short, the Voice has been asked for explicitly, and we have the chance to vote democratically to enshrine it within the Constitution. That’s why I’m voting ‘Yes’.
The Statement also addresses in part, the second major criticism, about the Voice not being a total solution, and goes on to request ‘Treaty’; a binding agreement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the Australian government, showing that each group has agreed about duties and responsibilities around sharing land and resources and governing together. Although Treaty is not included in the upcoming referendum, the idea is already in place in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, and Norway. It’s not something that’s beyond our reach. That’s why I’m voting ‘Yes’.
To me, the Voice is just the beginning. I will be voting ‘Yes’, because instead of focusing on what the Voice is not, I am focused on what it is: a fair go; a chance for reparation; a step towards the unified, safe, and democratic Australia we all want to see. I will be voting ‘Yes’, and I hope you choose to walk with me and many other Australians to do the same.