First Nations

Voice to Parliament

By 20 September 2023March 11th, 2024No Comments

The Voice to Parliament

We at Eastsider News see the Voice to Parliament as an important initiative on the road to recognising Australia’s First Peoples in Australia’s constitution and a step towards bridging the gap that afflicts the lives of many indigenous people.  We encourage everybody to seek out answers to your questions so that when you come to vote at the referendum later this year, you make an informed vote based on fact not fear, with goodwill and open hearts.

Scroll down to read the beautifully written and heartfelt contributions about why we should vote Yes.


The Voice – a response to the nay-sayers

Bob Ridley

While I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that voting Yes is ‘the right thing to do’, I believe there is a need for more detailed response to some of the No campaign statements which at first glance sound reasonable. I offer four examples.

To read more, click here.

From the Pen of a Dreamer

Ebony Balaz

 “You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one”

John Lennon

A stranger reminded me of this iconic song by John Lennon recently as we chatted about the Voice to Parliament and our upcoming referendum. My world view is often taken as the naive ramblings of an idealist, but to me (and it turns out to the man I chatted with) it’s simple, with cooperation and mutual respect anything is possible. The power of a connected community to make positive change in the lives of its inhabitants is something that I have experienced personally. Having a sense of agency over your own life is empowering and knowing you are appreciated as part of something larger than yourself helps to demonstrate the unique value of the individual.

To read more of this piece, click here.

The Voice

Howard Tankey

If you look at the language map for Indigenous Australia, you see a complex pattern of language groups across the continent. The actual number of languages and tribes or clans is often quoted to be around 250 to 300. This situation had developed over at least 65 thousand years.

There is no evidence of European-like power struggles to create empires. In fact, there are many protocols and customs around message sticks, ‘Welcome to Country’, and trading over large distances that suggest a very civilized way of interacting and co-operating.

An Aboriginal friend once looked at the Murray River and commented that Europeans saw rivers as natural boundaries between countries, whereas Aboriginal people saw them as supermarkets and pharmacies where people could share resources. Whilst there would have been intertribal disputes, it appears as though First Nations peoples co-existed quite peacefully.

To read more of this article, please click here.

A Joyous Moment

Ray Peck

I have been astounded at the misinformation being bandied around about The Voice. From the onset, I was moved by the eloquence of the Uluru Statement from the Heart with its message of Voice, Truth-telling and Treaty. Later, I discovered that the statement was proposed by the 16-member Referendum Council – a body jointly appointed by Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten in 2015 – endorsed by 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and created in consultation with 1200 other Indigenous representatives over six months. Hardly elitist.

To read more, click here.

Let’s choose to listen

Amy Hiller

Australia’s First Nations People lived sustainably, in balance with the natural world, as a continued civilisation from ‘time immemorial’: more than 60,000 years. Sadly, since colonisation, for 235 years their existence and culture has been marginalised and treated with appalling disrespect.

Collectively, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island tribes have reached out with an olive branch via the poignant Uluru Statement from the Heart. The text correctly says ‘proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness’.

As an Australian, these words move me to do what little I can to provide hope for the future. I believe that enabling First Nations people a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution is the least we can do. I hope we also choose to listen. For too long we have closed our hearts and minds. It is time to open them and to listen and appreciate those who are the rightful custodians of this land, who came before and now live among us. Let’s walk alongside each other and work toward a better future by saying ‘Yes’ to the Voice.

Voice to Parliament: a modest but significant change to Australia’s Constitution

Eastsider News

Two weeks before referendum day on the Voice to Parliament, you can expect to receive a pamphlet in your mailbox. It will contain two 2000 word essays outlining the Yes and No cases for the proposed constitutional alteration, written by politicians who voted for or against the bill in parliament.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) will typeset, print and distribute the pamphlet but has had no role in preparing the content. The AEC also does not have legislative authority to edit, amend or fact check the Yes or No cases.

To read more, click here.

The Voice to Parliament

Eastsider News

‘We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.’ These words from the Uluru Statement from the Heart represent a graceful invitation from First Nations People to fellow Australians to respond with open hearts when they vote on the Voice referendum proposal later this year.

In recent times, the debate over the proposed changes to Australia’s constitution has become quite divisive as more conservative forces seek to use this process for purposes quite unrelated to the intention of this modest but important change. The vote refers only to the constitutional text, not the implementing legislation. Any legislation arising from this principle will be subjected to scrutiny under normal parliamentary processes and open to input from the Australian community.

To read more, please click here.

Why do I support the Voice?

Ian Penrose

There are many disadvantaged groups in Australia, all of whom would surely like to have a greater say in government matters affecting them. So why should one group, Indigenous Australians, be given a special and constitutionally-enshrined voice to parliament?

There is no doubting the extreme level of disadvantage in many Indigenous communities: the statistics on, for example, life-expectancy and imprisonment, are shocking and unacceptable. But while that is an often-stated reason for the Voice, it is not, in my view, a sufficient reason. So why do I support the Voice?

Firstly, the proposed Voice is intimately connected to the proposed recognition of Indigenous Australians in the words of the constitution – a recognition (widely supported) that they were the custodians of this land for thousands of years before colonisation. Such recognition is central to what defines Australia, so it should be more than just words. It needs to be more substantial. In my mind this justifies giving Indigenous Australians their own Voice to Parliament: that would be tangible recognition.

Secondly, the disadvantage that many Indigenous Australians experience has a different genesis from that of other disadvantaged groups. Much is the result of colonisation: their land was taken from them, many of their children were taken away, they were omitted from the national census, they lacked electoral franchise, they have been subjected to paternalistic laws. The impact of colonisation on them and their way of life has been nothing short of catastrophic and warrants redress in a tangible way.

Thirdly, modern Australia has much to learn from the traditional practices and beliefs of Indigenous culture. Top of mind here is “connection to country”, respect for non-human life, living in harmony with nature, being custodians not owners of the land. In contrast, modern Australia, with its worship of wealth, consumerism and exploitation of nature is demonstrably unsustainable both environmentally and ethically. It is perhaps wishful thinking on my part, but a louder indigenous voice could show us a way towards a brighter future.