It’s a big YES from me! #theVoice

Today we’re going to get a little political… but stick with me because I think by the end, you’ll understand why this is so much bigger than politics!

On Saturday, October 14th Australians will be asked to vote on one single question that has the potential to change Australia’s constitution and finally recognise 65,000 years of indigenous culture for the first time in the 122-year-old constitution’s history. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and bodies have been fighting to be recognised since their first petition in the 1930s. That is close to 100 years of fighting to be heard on issues that directly affect their lives, health, education, employment, and housing. Almost 100 years of fighting to close so many gaps that have been acknowledged yet ignored.

In 2017, nearly 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and elders from all parts of the country called for a Voice to Parliament through the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It has been designed and agreed on by Indigenous Australian leaders over many decades and has over 80% support from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The Voice will be an advisory committee of Indigenous Australian people chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia, including balanced gender representation and youth representatives. The Voice members will serve for a fixed period of time and can give advice to politicians in Canberra to improve the lives of Indigenous Australian people. Listening to advice from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about matters that actually affect their lives is crucial in assisting the government to make better and more informed decisions.

Indigenous Australian communities face unique and serious challenges that many of us voting have never and will never experience. There are very real and very obvious gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in life expectancy, health, housing, education, and employment. By proposing the Voice, Indigenous Australians have made the reasonable request to be listened to about their own issues and their own communities and offer a way to propose their own solutions. When Parliament or the Government wants to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians, they can ask the Voice to come up with the best solutions that will actually work and make a real, practical difference. Parliament and Government can choose to listen to that advice, or not – and ultimately make the final decision (something the No party doesn’t seem to understand). When we listen to people and make decisions based on their local knowledge, we get better outcomes.

For decades, politicians have spent billions on programs without any consultation with, or advice from, members of Indigenous Australian communities. Unsurprisingly, these programs haven’t fixed problems or delivered meaningful solutions. Take the Northern Territory Intervention (NTI) program as an example, which in today’s terms cost around $1 billion of taxpayer’s money. The NTI failed spectacularly at its stated objectives, particularly its plan to assist in reaching some of the ‘Close the Gap’ goals more quickly. It begs the question, would there be such a waste of scarce budget resources if there was a Voice in place to inform and educate the government that there are more effective ways of improving Indigenous Australian lives? I personally think the answer is quite clear.

The No campaign is trying to put doubt in people’s minds by leading you to believe this is a leap into the unknown as there’s not enough detail about how the Voice would operate. But what they fail to inform people is that it would be up to parliament to design the Voice, giving lawmakers the power to change it over time. It’s also important to note that other countries have similar Indigenous advisory bodies that have been in place for decades, working comfortably alongside national or federal parliaments. This is not a new and controversial idea, and the fact that it is so controversial within Australia goes to show how far behind Australia is on an international scale.

Putting the Voice in the constitution means it can always be improved upon but can never be thrown away. This protects the Voice and the Indigenous Australian communities it will represent from the ongoing politics that have been around for years. I hope you have some more insight and information for when you head out to the polling booths on Saturday, October 14th, and if you’re still a little unsure just tweak the No campaigns slogan. If you don’t know, find out!! I have linked 2 great sources to get you started.

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