We say YES to The Voice Referendum 2023
“We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”Uluru statement of the heart 2017
EcoNetwork Port Stephens acknowledges that the First Nations Peoples of Australia hold unique knowledge and rights inherited from their ancestors and Country, and have cared for this country since time immemorial. As detailed in EcoNetwork’s own constitution, we acknowledge the authority of First Nations Peoples to speak for Country, support their right to self-determination and recognise that rightful recognition of, and genuine reconciliation with, First Nations Peoples is fundamental to protecting social and environmental equity in Australia.
Just like every community, First Nations people have a range of different political views. We understand that some First Nations people may not think that what is being proposed in this referendum goes far enough in the fight for justice, treaty and truth-telling. All of those views are valid and need to be respected.
The Voice to Parliament was a key recommendation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.1 This 12-paragraph document was composed and endorsed by hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives who attended regional dialogues and the Uluru summit in 2017. Finally after 6 years, this referendum is the first step to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
EcoNetwork’s position on the referendum is that voting ‘yes’ to the question and supporting a successful referendum will be both a valuable change in its own right and also a first step towards treaty and truth-telling.
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?
The proposed law that Australians are being asked to approve at the referendum would insert a new section into the Constitution:
Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
In practice, this means that The Voice will be an advisory body to consult and give advice to the Commonwealth Parliament and Government on policy matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as health, education and social and economic disadvantages. It will:
- provide independent advice to Parliament and Government
- be chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities
- be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth
- be empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed
- be accountable and transparent
- work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures
- will not have a program delivery function
- will not have a veto power.
These principles were developed by the First Nations Referendum Working Group and endorsed by the Australian Government. The structure and role of The Voice would be decided by Parliament through legislation, with members to be chosen by First Nations people.
EcoNetwork encourages our members, affiliated groups and friends to support this referendum and to spread the word on the important step forward this is for Australia. We are reaching out across our networks to get as many voices as we can to ensure this vote gets over the line.
The referendum will ask Australians if they agree with the principle that First Nations Peoples should have a seat at the table when decisions are being made about their lives.
The exact shape will be determined by the Parliament following a successful referendum. This allows for the shape to be changed by Parliaments over time according to the conditions of the day.
Whether this is the perfect solution, or in the right order preceding truth-telling and treaty remains to be seen – but surely it is a step forward and a loss would be a massive setback for reconciliation?
Please do not allow false news or politics to derail a successful referendum. We no longer want to hear words like ‘them and us’ – time is well overdue for us all, as Australians, to walk together.
- Have informed and meaningful conversations in your neighbourhoods about The Voice, especially with those who are undecided on how to vote
- Read the attached Uluru Supporter Kit and the websites shown below
- Attend a Voice event
- Share your support on social media
Why is the Voice needed when there are already First Nations members of Parliament?
First Nations members of Parliament are elected to represent their electorates – this is the fundamental basis of our representative democracy. They speak for all their constituents and represent the political party under which they are elected. Those who participated in the Regional Dialogues do not want to join political parties, they do not want to be politicians. They devote their lives to improving outcomes in their Communities and they just want a say in matters that impact them.
To get your facts about the proposed Voice to Parliament, read ‘The Voice to Parliament Handbook’ written by Kerry O’Brien and Thomas Mayo. It’s pitched as a clear and simple guide for Australians who want to better understand what they’ll be voting on later this year. Thomas Mayo provides answers to the most frequently asked questions, while O’Brien writes a chronology of the fate of every past Indigenous advisory body – all of them have ended up being watered down or abolished as governments have changed.
Kerry and Thomas on the Voice – The Guardian 18 May 2023
Find out more facts about The Voice to Parliament:
- Recognition through a Voice
- Reconciliation Australia – Voice to Parliament
- Indigenous Constitutional Recognition through a Voice
- The voice referendum is a turning point. A yes vote will save lives. A no vote will invalidate them
- The Conversation – Articles on The Voice
- ABC Video Lab: Everything you need to know about The Voice