Why I am voting Yes for the Voice 

With the Referendum fast approaching, I am sharing my intention to vote Yes for the Voice.

When someone asks me, ‘Do you want to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and as our First Peoples’? I am saying Yes

When someone asks me, ‘Do you want that recognition to be meaningful and practical, not just symbolic?’ I am saying Yes

When someone asks me, ‘Is the Voice just the beginning, and will it help the whole nation listen to the Truth, and approach Treaty making with respect?’ I am saying Yes

When someone asks me, ‘Should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as fellow human beings, have the right to have a say about matters that affect their own lives?’ I am saying Yes

When someone asks me, ‘Is changing the Constitution necessary to achieve all these things, given the long history of silence, denial and systemic discrimination that threatens the lives and futures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?’ I am saying Yes 

The Voice will not divide us, it will unite us, perhaps for the first time.

The Voice will not take anything from anyone, these are voices that have struggled to be heard for centuries, and are asking for a chance to be heard. 

The Voice is not about making decisions for anyone else, it is about self-determination.

At the same time, it will strengthen our democracy. The Constitution, while it has served us as a nation, can be improved. Promoting the right to self-determination for our First Peoples underscores the need to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights for all. But we cannot claim to be committed to human rights, and ignore the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It starts here.  

Listening improves decision-making – especially by those who make the laws, our Parliament, and those who administer them, our Executive. Empowering those who are affected by those laws also improves lives.

How can we say no to that? 

We have the right to vote. And a right to vote is a precious thing – it is not something to be treated lightly, it is part of the social contract we have all made as citizens to one another. In a country where the peoples who are most acutely disadvantaged only number among around 3% of our population, we as non-Aboriginal people have enormous power. 

In this Referendum we can say yes or no.

Yes means we see you, we include you, and we are open to listening. That’s it.

But no means something that the nation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples cannot afford.

To see the fear mongering being whipped up and the vicious attacks being levelled against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders points to the deep seated fear at the heart of the no campaign – fear of what we might hear, fear that, at a fundamental level, our ‘settlement’ of this land was never legitimate, and we aren’t as entitled as we might think. And through this haze of gaslighting, of positioning non-Aboriginal Australians as the victims, the Truth can be ignored, and the suffering can continue. And if the no campaign succeeds, Aboriginal people who have fronted it can be scapegoated for what is ultimately the failure of courage, the failure of humanity, decency and fairness, of the majority non-Aboriginal population. 

And if we say no – what message does that send? That we do not recognise our First Peoples? That we won’t listen to them on matters that affect their lives? What will that do to the existing lack of trust and lack of power that is at the heart of all those statistics that can be ignored by those who do not live them? 

And if we say nothing in the face of lies, what does that mean?

Our Constitution is a document that sets the foundation for the country we want to be. It determines the principles and the powers of our democratic institutions. So what country do we want to be? Talking about our identity is not something we, as a nation, have had the courage to do openly. This is our chance to come together.

These are human beings wanting a say over their lives. The fact that we are being asked this seems, at one level, extraordinary. How can anyone have a say about someone else’s right to have a say over their own lives? Non-Aboriginal people would never have their rights determined by others in this way, but then, we would never need it. 

And still, we are being asked, and in being asked, we have an enormous responsibility – to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to the nation, to our children. 

To be informed.  

To seek out the truth. 

To engage with a majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are asking for this change with respect. 

To see the opportunity this offers. 

To see this in the context of our unique history. 

To aspire to be the best nation we can be; mature, courageous, self-aware, respectful, inclusive, fair. 

And ambitious.

To say Yes to the possibilities a more united nation promises us all.