Yes vote on Voice would be true progress towards real reconciliation

Yamatji man Justin Ware explains how a Yes vote on the Voice to Parliament would be a genuine step towards true reconciliation for all Australians.

Anthony Albanese, Indigenous Affairs, Politics

Staff Writer 24 Mar 2023
3 mins
Landscape image of Uluru on a partly cloudy day

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday delivered an emotional address as he unveiled the proposed wording for the Referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament to be held later this year.

The response from radio talk back callers was mixed, but some opined their concern about the Referendum dividing Australia.

As a young, and proud, Yamatji man, my first response was one of hope – that the nation will support the Voice, and we will become a more united country as a result.

The wording of the Referendum question the Prime Minister announced is:

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? 

If successful, the alteration to Chapter 9 of the Australian Constitution will be as follows:

  1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

For the Referendum to pass, it requires a double majority, which requires a majority of all voters across Australia and voters in at least four states to vote ‘yes’ to the proposed question above.

The Prime Minister and the Voice Referendum Working Group have negotiated for months to finalise the wording, which will be put to all Australians later this year.

Mr Albanese spoke with emotion about the significance of this Referendum in terms of its importance in unifying Australia, for the benefit of our First Nations people, the oldest continuous culture on earth.

Growing up as a Yamatji kid in WA’s Mid West, to me, the government meant the local council. I didn’t have any idea on what was going on in Canberra and how such a small group of people, mostly white men on the other side of the country, would make decisions about issues that affected me living in a small regional town.

I am young enough to have missed much of the oppression my people faced, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen, or been impacted by, the lasting effects it has had on my people.

I grew up with Aunties and Uncles who were a part of the Stolen Generation and personally faced racism my whole life, especially that particular kind of racism that comes with being mixed race, what others would call “half-caste”.

As I grew up and became more aware of the world around me and just how little influence we had on what was decided on in Parliament, I then realised just how bad the situation was.

While the Voice won’t erase the past or fix the problems that past policies created, or those issues yet to come, it is a step in the right direction for our First Peoples to be heard and consulted when it comes to issues that impact our lives.

I still find it hard to talk to friends and family who don’t quite understand what we have been through, and it can be awkward to call things out sometimes, not because they come from a place of hatred, but because they generally lack understanding and have no lived experience.

My hopes are that Australians vote yes to establish the Voice to ensure better outcomes for my people and influence the perception of the general population as we enter a new stage of a reconciled Australia.

There has been much focus on what the Voice will actually do, probably too much debate.

As explained by the Prime Minister, the Voice to Parliament looks to help the government “make better decisions and achieve better outcomes” and is not looking to take any form of decision-making power away from government.

The Voice simply looks to consult with communities on issues that affect them, instead of making life-changing decisions on their behalf.

Mr. Albanese said many issues stem from decades of government trying to impose solutions from Canberra instead of consulting with communities directly.

The Government plans to bring forward legislation to parliament next Thursday, March 30. In addition, a joint parliamentary committee will be established to review the legislation and gather feedback on its phrasing.

At Purple, we have long been committed to promoting the importance of reconciliation, and our team is excited to formalise this commitment with the development of our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

We will continue to advocate strongly for the Yes vote and support our partners with their initiatives in this space.