It was certainly a disappointing outcome in last weekend’s Referendum to finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution.
For those of us who supported the Yes cause, it isn’t the end of the road for this issue or the discussion it has started around the country. It’s a conversation that while very uncomfortable for many Australians, it is one we desperately need to have.
It is going to take more uncomfortable, and sometimes difficult, conversations to get the change that is so desperately needed in Australian, especially when it comes to how we deal with our history, and closing the widening gaps in health and education outcomes; and the extreme imprisonment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
While it feels like the referendum last weekend was a failure, and some feeling deep disappointment, these can lead to change. It can lead to more people getting involved in campaigning to make change. It can cause more people to keep a conversation alive about recognition and reconciliation in a way that other efforts haven’t been able to achieve. It can also cause people who might have voted ‘No’ to reconsider their thinking on it or become inquisitive about why so many people voted No.
The Union movement was built on an ethos of “the struggle”.
It’s about the fact that every day is a struggle in the fight for workers’ rights, to lift workers’ pay and conditions; and to protect those rights and those conditions we have fought hard to win.
Likewise with such a major social issue.
It is a struggle every day to keep speaking with family and friends about a topic that is utterly unapproachable for many people living in Australia. It will be a struggle to keep the conversation alive about how such a fundamental change, and one that actually affects no-one other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, can lead to dramatic change and better outcomes in education, health, family life and working life.
And it will be a struggle to make many Australians grasp the living (and lived) reality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have suffered systemic racism and barbarism since the expansion of European arrivals to Australia across the country. These are the sort of things we could have started addressing in a meaningful, and collaborative, kind of way had the referendum been successful.
But for now, it’s time for those campaigners who worked so hard to rest up so they can keep working, keep chipping away, at ensuring the next time such a referendum comes up, it is unquestionable that Australians will vote Yes.