Why I’m taking off my journalist hat to campaign for a YES vote for the Voice…

For the whole of my career as a journalist I have taken pride in being an observer of events, a chronicler of history.

In this, my 37th year as a journalist, I feel compelled to get up from the sidelines and take part.

I am campaigning for #Yes23 and here’s why:

The Voice referendum in Australia is a simple ask from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – to acknowledge their unique place in Australia as the first peoples and the oldest surviving culture in the world, and to set up an advisory body to inform governments about the issues, laws, policies and programs that affect them.

More than 80-percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have endorsed this ask and it is the result of years of discussions and consultation with Indigenous Australians from across the land. That’s the Uluru Statement from the Heart you hear a lot about.

We pride ourselves on being the land of the ‘fair go’. But in reality many Australians are left behind. Indigenous Australians in particular languish when it comes to health, life expectancy, job opportunities, educational levels.

The last successful constitutional change happened in 1967 when Aboriginal people were counted in the census.

Think about that when you hear arguments about equality and “we’re all equal citizens”.   It’s just NOT TRUE.

The census is the document that assists governments, agencies, businesses, churches, civil society groups, researchers, academics, scientists, medical professionals and more to make decisions on programs, laws, regulations, spending priorities.

Until 56 years ago there was no official data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their place in Australia.

They were not deemed to be people in the eyes of our constitution. They literally did not count.

That constitutional amendment did not fix things overnight. Our recent history is littered with shameful laws and practices against Indigenous Australians and discrimination continues to this day. Nonetheless it was a crucial step in our history.

In the five and a half decades since there have been numerous bodies to direct Aboriginal affairs – each one of them set up by one political group and torn down by another. By putting it in the constitution, it is removed from the cynical cycle of politics and put in the hands of the people who are most impacted by it.

To achieve equality we must ensure each and every Australian has equal opportunity – that is, they have the same access to health, education, employment. Currently that is not the case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The day-to-day organisational detail – who’s involved, what it costs, how it will work etc – will be determined by the Federal parliament. The constitution sets out the concept of The Voice, the parliament figures out the rest.

The advisory body will give practical information and suggestions to the government about how to best address the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The constitutional change does not give the advisory body any powers – it CAN NOT make laws, determine budgets, veto government decisions.

This latest proposed constitutional amendment is a simple, where Indigenous Australians are asking us to listen.

Change is slow and change is hard.

There’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation and outright lies being peddled in this campaign.

The division has been confected and whipped up by people whose only aim is to take a wrecking ball to societal norms. Note the omnibus of “grievances” from the loudest in the No camp.

The No vote stands for the status quo at best, and at worse unleashes a deeply damaging free-for-all for racism and hate to prosper.

The constitutional change will not affect most of us. Our lives will not be affected at all. WE LOSE NOTHING.

There is much more at stake than the small number of words in the Constitution – we are being tested for decency and dignity.

Let’s not fail. 


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top