Later this year, with just three letters, we all have the opportunity to change Australia for the better. How? By voting YES at the referendum.
By saying YES to changing our constitution to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament we will accept an invitation from First Nations Australians to walk together to build a better future. This invitation was extended to all Australians in the Uluru Statement from the Heart in May 2017.
It's been more than 250 years since Captain Cook arrived on our shores and declared Australia uninhabited. It's been more than 100 years since the Australian Constitution was created, and still, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t acknowledged.
To say it's time to change this is an understatement. We finally have an opportunity to change this and we cannot let it pass.
The night Anthony Albanese won the election in May 2022, he promised to hold a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the constitution. Last week, standing alongside the Referendum Working Group comprising leading First Nations voices, academics, advocates and MPs, the PM revealed the exact question Australians will be asked to vote on.
We are being asked to answer a simple question. Will we alter our Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?
The answer we sincerely hope those in this community and beyond choose is yes. For too long First Nations Australians have been told what they need. The Uluru Statement from the Heart proposes a meaningful path to reconciliation, to building a nation in which we are all stronger, together. The Uluru Statement was the result of unprecedented, grassroots, community consultation led by First Nations Australians. The Uluru Statement represents what an overwhelming majority of First Nations Australians want and the voice is at its heart.
It is time to walk together on a path towards YES. To recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.
All Australians benefit when we recognise and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge, cultures and stories. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to experience lower quality of life outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. They remain the most incarcerated people on the planet. This is not because they're innately criminal. It's because of entrenched structural and systemic disempowerment. To quote the Uluru Statement from the Heart this is the 'torment of their powerlessness'.
Among younger Australians the gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous children is particularly shameful. And yet the evidence about what sets First Nations children up to thrive is compelling: when children have access to Aboriginal-led, community controlled, culturally safe early childhood education and development services, the gap closes. This is, in effect, why an enshrined Voice to Parliament matters.
A Voice to Parliament will ensure that Indigenous people affected by decisions made about them are able to advise politicians about what really works in their communities. What works for lots of communities is known, but it hasn't been enacted. The Voice to Parliament will provide a systemic and structural mechanism to enact the changes communities need.
A Voice to Parliament will improve lives in practical, meaningful ways. A Voice to Parliament will change this nation.
We have an opportunity to make that happen. We'll be voting yes at the referendum and we hope you will do the same. If you want to help make sure Australia votes YES, please check out Yes23. There are hundreds of ways we can all make this happen.