What Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want for their children is what you want for yours. That’s what they are asking you to say Yes to at this referendum. The same opportunity for their children to make a good life for themselves. Nothing extra, just an equal chance. That’s the change we can make happen.
For many years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have advocated for Constitutional Recognition through a Voice – one that’s independent from day-to-day politics. A practical way of making real progress on issues like health and education.
The Voice will be a committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, local representatives from every state and territory. Indigenous Australians, chosen by Indigenous Australians, giving advice to Government.
The Voice will mean we listen to people about issues that affect them, so we get better results.
Giving locals a say also means we save money because we’ll be making sure funding actually reaches the people on the ground and makes a difference.
Our Government – along with every State and Territory Government – has committed to it. Legal experts have endorsed it. People on all sides of the Parliament have backed it. Faith groups, sporting codes, local councils, businesses and unions have embraced it.
And on October 14th, you can vote for it. The idea for a Voice came from the people – and it will be decided by the people.
Government will remain the decision maker. But they’ll be equipped with better advice because with a Voice we’ll hear directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – both about the challenges they face, but also their success stories, which we can then work to replicate across the nation.
Voting Yes won’t fix everything overnight, but it will mean we finally have the right approach in place to start finding the answers.
Let’s be clear about the alternative. Voting No means nothing changes.
Voting No means closing the door on practical progress that will help people live better lives.
The worst of times tend to bring out the best in Australians. Now the people who confront the worst of circumstances every day are appealing to the best in us, and offering Australia a way ahead.
We can take up that offer by voting Yes and making a change for the better. Together.
If you’re unsure, read the very clear wording of the proposed change. It’s constitutional recognition with an advisory group to give a voice so that we get better results.
Our Australian story goes back 65,000 years. It's up to all of us – together – to write the next chapter. We can start by writing Yes.
That one word can be our key to a great moment of national unity, a moment when we join together in fairness and in pride, and with excitement about the even greater nation we can become when we take this step.
In the words of the great Evonne Goolagong, “Voting yes is a chance for all Australians to celebrate the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have made to our country and to help the next generation chase their dreams. Let’s grab this moment with both hands.”
In the history of our nation, the great acts of progress and fairness have always required hard work. But when they’re done, the only question we ever ask is: “Why didn’t we do it earlier?”
And it will be the same this time. When Yes wins, all Australians will win.
This opinion piece was first published in The Daily Telegraph on Friday, 22 September 2023.