In under four weeks, Australians will vote in our first referendum this century.
For anyone under forty, it will be the first constitutional ballot of their adult life.
Understandably, some people are still wrapping their heads around this process and the question at hand.
With that in mind, I wanted to share a little bit about why I’m saying Yes next month.
When you go to vote on October 14, you will be deciding on two important changes to Australia’s Constitution.
The first is to recognise Indigenous Australians as the original inhabitants of this land.
The second is to establish a committee that will give advice to parliament on issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. This elected body will be called the ‘Voice’.
I’m voting Yes in this referendum because I believe these changes will make a practical difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians.
This is a great country, full of warm hearted people. We want to see our neighbours doing well in life, particularly those who have faced a greater share of struggles along the way.
But for all these good intentions, our current way of doing things isn’t working.
Indigenous Australians are still being left behind, with a lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, and less opportunities at school and work.
If we want to change these outcomes, we need to change the way we do business.
The idea for a Voice came from Indigenous people, based on a simple premise: that if we listen to communities on the issues that affect them, we will deliver better results.
As ideas go, this is good common sense. And more than that, we know it works.
When we involve Aboriginal people in decision making, we get better outcomes.
That means improving health and aged care, reducing crime, training people for jobs, and giving local kids more opportunities and hope.
That is what the Voice will do, by advising parliament on fundamental issues like housing, healthcare, education, and employment.
I know there are some people reading this who will agree with these points, but still feel hesitant about committing to these changes. And I know that there is other misinformation hanging around the referendum that is holding people back from saying yes.
But to be absolutely clear: the Voice will never hold a veto over parliament. The elected federal parliament will always have the full and final say over all decisions.
The Voice is simply there to give advice, so we can make better decisions, produce better results, and deliver value for money.
The alternative is closing door to the next generation of Indigenous Australians by sticking with a system that isn’t working.
Australia is the best country in the world. We can offer these young people something better.
That’s why I’m voting yes on October 14.
This opinion piece was first published by the Illawarra Mercury on 27 September 2023.