The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (the First Peoples) are ‘the oldest continuing cultures in human history’. Yet, in the 122 year old Australian Constitution, the 65,000 years old cultures of the First Peoples are not recognised. This is what the ‘YES’ vote will do – Recognise the First Peoples. But recognition in paper alone will not help without a mechanism that will ensure their voices are heard. That is what the majority of the Indigenous Elders and Leaders from across the country want – a body called the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice’ to make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to their communities. And it is not too much to ask.
By saying YES, we are not just voting for a Voice; we are voting for empathy, justice, and a brighter tomorrow for all Australians. We will enhance representative democracy to a participative democracy that will secure better outcomes for the suffering First Peoples.
The Voice will:
Empower Communities and Enrich Lives
When government departments, agencies, and Ministers lend their ears to grassroots representatives, policies become more refined, wiser choices are made, implementation is effective, and taxpayers’ funds are spent responsibly.
Close the Gap, and Build Bridges
The journey of ‘closing the gap’ between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is made with dialogue, understanding, and meeting socioeconomic targets. The Indigenous Voice is a conduit for ideas, innovations, and practical solutions that can vastly improve their health, education, employment, and housing. It is a positive step toward unity, progress, and shared prosperity.
Embrace Diversity, Embody Inclusivity, and Ensure Transparency
The Voice embodies the rich tapestry of First Peoples, incorporating the wisdom of Elders and women, the vitality of youth, and the resilience of the differently abled. It would consult with regional entities and grassroots communities to ensure its representations are informed by their experience. It would also be subject to standard governance and reporting requirements to ensure transparency and accountability.
Pave the way for Reconciliation
With the Australian Government having apologised in 2008 for the past injustices, the ongoing inequalities can be remedied by listening to the Voice. It’s a pragmatic first step for healing the wounds, truth-telling, and working towards a Treaty.
Work alongside existing organizations and traditional structures
The Voice is all about giving independent advice, and the Parliament and Government will have the final say on its composition, functions and powers.
The Voice will help First Peoples take the rightful place in their own country.
It will take nothing away from the Australian people.
Let us think with our heart and do the right thing.
Dr Lionel Bopage
Mr Antony Gratian
For Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka