A better future for all or just for some?
From the time you get this week’s STAT Report, there will be only 11 days until an historic referendum where you will be asked two very important questions.
This isn’t like voting for who will lead the next government. This is something much more profound as it asks about the kind of Australia we want for the future and whether we want to have an Australia that can remember its origins and accept its past.
There has been a lot of information circulating about what a Yes vote will mean. And I can tell you that a Yes vote will not result in any changes to the laws of the land or to the ownership of your property. In fact, everything said about a Yes vote by anyone purporting to represent the No vote campaign has been overly exaggerated or just an outright fabrication of reality.
But a No vote will mean that the first peoples of this nation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will continue to not be recognised as the original inhabitants or have their cultural legacies, heritages and practices recognised. Having recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being the original and first custodians of our nation is a significant step forward. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples already know this to be true but to have it recognised means that it is something Australians also accept as true, that they were and continue to be the custodians of this continent.
The No campaign says the referendum won’t do anything tangible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but to truly start addressing the real-life issues experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they must have a voice in the Parliament. It doesn’t mean that laws will be changed or that there will be preferential treatment. It means that our Parliament and the Government of the day must ensure that they have sought advice and counsel on laws that have a direct impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It means there are opportunities for the Parliament and Government to enact laws that will actually close the gap in healthcare and education outcomes, reduce the unacceptable imprisonment rate, improve career opportunities while improving life expectancy and quality of life.
14 October is our chance, a once in a generation chance, to do the right thing and finally recognise the 60,000-plus years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history before European arrival; with a Voice to Parliament.
On behalf of the Union, I strongly urge all members to vote Yes on 14 October.
If you didn’t read the excellent article from a member about the referendum in last week’s STAT Report, we have linked to it here for your convenience. It’s well worth the read.