We need to listen to First Nations people on the Voice

Uluru statement and the Voice

As a political animal, the magic number for me has always been 50 per cent plus one, the figure you need to get a parliamentary majority and govern in our democracy.

So, when I took it upon myself to get educated about the Voice, the level of consensus among First Nations leaders at the Uluru constitutional convention that gave rise to the Voice proposal made an impact on me.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was the output of the Referendum Council, which was established as a bipartisan initiative by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten in 2015 with terms of reference, “to advise on next steps towards a successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.”

In 2017, 243 out of 250 First Nations leaders present at the Uluru convention endorsed the Uluru statement, which called for, the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” and had been informed by a consultation process involving more than 1,200 First Nations people in 13 community meetings around the country.

Constitutional reform was sought to, “empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country.  When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”

The views of the seven delegates to the Uluru convention that opted not to back the Uluru statement, as well as all the questions and dissenting views being expressed in the leadup to the referendum, deserve respect.

But, having asked the question of First Nations people through our political leaders and received such an overwhelming response through the community meetings and Uluru convention, shouldn’t we listen?

That’s my understanding of how a democracy is supposed to work.


The illustration that accompanies this article, and all the illustrations that accompany my weekly contributions, are the work of Chris Wood, a local Indigenous illustrator and cartoonist.

Chris’ great grandmother was of the Stolen Generation, taken from her family in the Kimberley to Beagle Bay Mission when she was a child. His father, Wayne, is the first and currently only high-ranking aboriginal union official in the country. Their heritage has been traced to the Worrorra in WA’s north.

Thank you Chris for bringing my words to life.


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