Words by Brodie (he/him), 16 QLD
In the context of a history of misguided mismanagement and pig ignorance on the part of Australia’s politicians towards the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the Voice provides a once in a generation chance to take a step in the right direction and sets the stage for the implementation of meaningful action in closing the gap.
Politically speaking, I consider myself a moderate – someone that is not attracted to policies that are big and noisy as, in my experience, they are mostly hollow and disappointing in delivery. I have observed that numerous governments throughout the recent history of Australia have made grand commitments and promises to Indigenous Australians. And credit to them, they have invested large amounts of funds to back these commitments.
However, an observable trait in these programs run by federal, state, and local authorities aimed at addressing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians going as far back as the initial Indigenous Assistance programs introduced by the Whitlam Government in the 1970’s is that the direction and allocation of these vast resources is left to white, well-intentioned but out of touch bureaucrats.
And while anyone will tell you that the amount of money that is put into these programs will improve their effectiveness, it must also be understood that none of this money will make a real impact while there are no local indigenous representatives advising on where it would actually be effective.
I believe in collaborative solutions that reach across all sectors of society to deliver a real outcome for the ordinary people involved. As such, I see the Voice as the greatest opportunity this nation has to come together and deliver lasting change for the disgracefully high number of Indigenous Australians facing hardship and poverty.
The Voice is not, as some claim, akin to a third chamber of parliament. Nor is it, as it has been either naively or disingenuously labelled by those running the No campaign, a “Canberra Voice.”
The Voice simply brings together the Indigenous leaders on the ground, the real people in Indigenous communities that know the issues and can provide practical and effective solutions and allows them to express their concerns and suggested solutions to the federal government. As such it is the furthest thing from a “Canberra Voice,” and instead provides a local Indigenous perspective to politicians as they attempt to address the endemic issues affecting First Nations peoples and communities.
This kind of change is, in my opinion, an absolutely necessary one which will put Indigenous Australians at the forefront of leading the campaign to close the gap once and for all.
For too long in this country we have had arguably well-intentioned but out of touch and ignorant white leaders dictating solutions to the problems faced by Indigenous Australians. It’s clear what this country needs is not simply more of the same, we need a fresh approach in which we incorporate the input and expertise of Indigenous people to provide solutions to these problems.
However, I am aware that many do not share my view and are inclined to support a No vote. To them, my fellow Australians, I say this:
How is it that a nation as wealthy as ours can provide so little opportunities to those who have called it home for 80,000 years?
How is it that a nation which has one of the most comprehensive universal healthcare systems in the world can tolerate its first peoples having an on average ten-year gap in life expectancy?
How is it that one of the world’s oldest functioning democracies with the highest voter turnout in the world can find itself with abysmal levels of participation in the electoral process among Indigenous people?
How is it that the nation containing the oldest continuing cultures in human history can deny them recognition in its constitution?
It’s intolerable that this state of affairs should be accepted and until we right the wrongs of the past there will be a stain on the soul of this nation.
Whilst the Voice won’t fix every problem overnight it’s a crucial step in the right direction towards a fair, free and prosperous Australia where we all can share in the immense opportunities afforded in abundance by this country.
Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio