Bayala, Ngara Wingara

Words by Hamani (he/him), NSW 

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As a proud Wiradjuri, Dharug, Dunghutti, Gooreng Gooreng and Tongan young person, I am so deeply passionate about the importance of First Nations Voice.

Since the beginning of the Dreaming, my ancestors have been caring for this land. Practicing cultural traditions, speaking language, music and dance.

In 1788, my ancestors were massacred, stripped of culture, and forced to learn English; decimating language groups, of which there were hundreds, and we were forced to assimilate.

Since 1788, policies, actions, and legislation against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as we needed to “protected against themselves, whether they like it or not.” – AO Neville.

Since 1788, our voices have not been heard.

In 1967, we were finally counted.

In 2023, we wanted our Voices to finally be heard.

Over the last year, I have witnessed disinformation and lies spread about both the Voice proposal and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. As a proud, strong Blak young man, I am disheartened with the fact that we continue to see such hatred and lies about what is an essential human right.

When the Uluru Statement from the Heart was first presented to the Australian Public back in 2017, it was a one-page document of peace and love. It spoke of a process to ensure we are on the meaningful path towards reconciliation. The process calls for Voice, Treaty, and Truth. In my opinion, in order for a Treaty Process to be effective, we need that Voice. For us to achieve Truth and to allow the truth-telling process to begin, we need that Voice.

Although I am young, I have been a loud advocate on the importance of listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. I believe that in order to effectively accomplish the outcomes stated in the Closing The Gap Reports – where we are still seeing gaps in Life Expectancy, Overrepresentation of Incarceration, Education Attainment Gaps and Aboriginal Communities living in Poverty – and to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, our voices need to be heard.

To say I am devastated, is a complete understatement. I am beyond hurt. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been let down multiple times in history, but this I believe feels completely worse. What we witnessed on Saturday was an outcome that may have sent the rights movement back decades.

I have said to friends and family that I will slowly recover from this. I do not believe I will ever recover from this. All my life, I have been told I was never good enough, I was treated differently. Not just because I am gay, but because I am Aboriginal. I have been dealt my fair share of racial undertones and stereotypes, but this campaign has set a new low.

During my time volunteering on pre-poll, I had been racially abused by those on the opposite side, I was told that “I was not Black enough” and “You’re not a real Aborigine”. I was subjected to racial, aggressive abuse and was told to convince people that I am Aboriginal. This is one story of many that are across this country. On Saturday night, every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person was told we don’t matter, that we don’t deserve a voice.

I speak to my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people; Though the result from Saturday is beyond disappointing, do not let anyone, or any results put you down.

I urge the Federal Government to use this outcome as fuel, and work on correcting the wrongs of prior Government policies and legislation. Correct the mistakes by genuinely and ethically consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities and implementing initiatives to effectively close the gap.

In 1967, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples were counted. In 2023, Australia said no to recognition.

We need a country that wants to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, that will listen to First Nations Youth Voices. Until this is achieved, Mother Earth will still be in pain, my Peoples will still be in pain.


Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio
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