Why is voting ‘Yes’ to the Voice important?
The June 2023 blog has been written by Professor Tony Broe, former AAG President and founding Friend of ATSIAAG
Australians happily voted ‘Yes’ in the 1967 Referendum (with a 91% majority) to change the Australian Constitution for government to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Census and improve their lives.
However, recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as equal citizens with the right to vote was not fully granted until 1983, only 40 years ago. Furthermore, there has been minimal progress in health, inequality, ‘self-determination’ policy set in 1973 and reinforced by the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody (1991) and the Mabo decision (1992).
The 1967 Referendum brought an increase in recognition and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as successful owners and managers of this Land over 60,000 years, and, indeed, as culturally superior human beings who created an orderly park-like Australia with their unique food gathering culture. In contrastwhite settlers, taking Aboriginal Land to farm wheat and breed sheep and cattle, have encouraged a fire, flood and drought-prone Australia.
The most obvious traumas of the first 200 years of invasion and colonisation have largely ceased: forced removal of Aboriginal people from land; removal of children to abusive orphanages; lock-up fringe camps masquerading as ‘missions’; widespread massacres; warfare and genocide. However, persisting racist attitudes and residual ‘protection’ and ‘assimilation’ concepts have, so far, halted effective ‘self-determination’.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a mind-blowing consensus document of practical reconciliation, completed in 2017 by some 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with wide consultation, but rejected by the Coalition Government. Uluru Statement priorities include advancing settler respect for the world’s oldest continuous culture; recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural achievements for all Australians; the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be heard in Parliament; to work on treaty making and truth telling; to bring to reality the long-approved policy of ‘self-determination’. This would be achieved by a ‘Yes’ vote in the Voice Referendum which would enshrine a platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to speak to the nation as we work towards treaty and truth.
Self-determination for Indigenous peoples is an international human right government policy since 1973, and achievable by accepting Uluru priorities as outlined above.
Firstly, cultural achievements need to be recognised and respected by a majority of non-Indigenous Australians - now happening. Secondly, the need for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice is recognised by most non-Indigenous voters - also underway. Thirdly, this need is translated into a Voice in Parliament, with the current minimalist wording, guaranteed by legal opinion as protecting parliamentary procedures.
The primary aim is to improve the lives of 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples by enabling the policy of ‘self-determination’ to be heard. This will be aided by further shifting majority attitudes (the settlers) to reduce discrimination and move on from more than 200 years of racism, removal, disrespect and discord, to realise the unmet aims of the 1967 constitutional change.
See also Yes23, the campaign led by Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Ltd.
This blog is also available as a pdf.