Harmonising Voices

Words by Louie (he/him), 16 QLD 

The prospect of the Voice referendum sinking into the quagmire of partisan politics would undoubtedly be a tragic turn that every Australian should earnestly strive to prevent.

The heart of the Yes argument, while not always eloquently put forth, boils down to a pivotal historic juncture – an opportunity for non-Indigenous Australians to formally extend their respect towards the First Nations people.

This referendum must be understood within the vast backdrop of history; a narrative that began with the contentious colonisation steered by James Cook’s 1770 expedition and Arthur Phillip’s 1788 penal colony. Australia’s colonisation, conceived under the false premise that the land was devoid of an established civilisation, underscores an egregious injustice – a blatant disregard for the rich tapestry of First Nations culture, wisdom and society.

Let’s be realistic; a Yes outcome in the referendum won’t instantaneously remedy all the pressing issues that currently beset First Nations people. However, it stands as a momentous and long-overdue gesture of respect, a bedrock upon which we can construct a future where the outcomes for First Nations people are markedly improved.

The notion of equality among all citizens is a foundational principle of democracy. Yet, a mature democracy acknowledges and values our distinctions, affirming each individual’s right to be recognised in their uniqueness.

In the case of Indigenous communities, this recognition takes on a distinctive hue, a right that’s deeply rooted in their ancient lineage and custodianship of this land. They are the original inhabitants, enduring through epochs that challenge our understanding. Their painful history is etched with dispossession and unconsented expropriation of their land, resources and children. Their sufferings are an affront to justice.

The complexities of rectifying these historical wrongs are not to be underestimated. However, it is within our jurisdiction to recognise and safeguard the inherent rights held by Indigenous communities across colonised societies globally—the right to self-determination. This is what the Voice encapsulates, a gracious invitation put forth by our Indigenous compatriots. Their aspiration is simple: the ability to coexist harmoniously on the land that was once exclusively theirs, to have their voices heeded on matters that directly concern them.

In a world where nations are gradually awakening to empathy and inclusivity, Australia has a chance to rise to the occasion, to signal its maturity as a compassionate and all-embracing society. Regrettably, it comes as no shock that within this crucial juncture, political interests loom.

Amid this tempest of opinions, one thing remains abundantly clear. This is a moment to reject the paternalistic tendencies that linger from our colonial past. The Voice proposal is a call for collaboration, a plea to foster a cohabitation that’s respectful, harmonious and sustainable. To shy away from acknowledging and immortalising this offer within our Constitution is to perpetuate the injustices of yesteryears, betraying the very essence of our democratic values.

As we stand at this crossroads, let’s heed the lessons of history and transcend the mire of partisan politics. The Voice to Parliament referendum is not merely a piece of legislative jargon – it’s a symbolic touchstone, an opportunity to usher in a future that is truly representative of the intricate mosaic of our society. Let us, as a nation, rise above the din of politics and partisanship to come together to embrace this gesture of respect and collaboration, forever etching it into the annals of our Constitution.

After the referendum has been passed, you are free to do whatever you want, but do not let your decision be swayed just for the sake of siding with your political party’s viewpoint without taking the time to actually learn about the Voice to Parliament.

This is Australia’s chance – something that we have been waiting too long for.

Don’t mess it up.

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc
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