Sunday 10th of December 2023

it's clear: vote YES to the voice.....................

Indigenous leader Marcia Langton says a no vote in the referendum would be “a mandate to cause us even further harm” while raising fears about setbacks to reconciliation.

Rejecting claims the consultation body would divide the nation, Prof Langton, the author of an influential co-design report suggesting a model for the voice, said the exact details of the Indigenous committee would have to be set by the parliament, including politicians opposed to the body, such as the opposition leader, Peter Dutton.

She urged a yes vote in the referendum, expressing concern that a failure to establish a voice would lead governments to give up on reform to improve the lives of Indigenous people.

“The debate will change so radically, if the no vote wins, that our advocacy will be seen as ineffectual, and so, therefore, how we participate in the public square will be very, very different,” Langton told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“The levels of abuse against the yes campaigners, including death threats and daily published insults and abuse, takes a toll.”

Langton – an anthropologist, geographer and academic – said the voice would help rebuild trust in government among Indigenous communities. The longtime voice advocate said the body would work to address structural disadvantages

“In less than 230 years, the first Australians have been reduced to the most disadvantaged Australians,” Langton said.

“As a descendant of the Yiman people who were massacred in the hundreds over decades of conflict, raised in Queensland under racist laws and now in my 70s, it is clear to me that the winds of change blowing across our continent now are our last hope of surviving as the First Peoples with any of our laws, cultures and languages intact.”

With Prof Tom Calma, Langton co-authored the 2021 co-design report – commissioned under the former Coalition government – which has been suggested as a base for the voice, proposing a committee of 24 people around the nation to give advice to government on Indigenous policy.

But Langton stressed multiple times that parliament and politicians would set the parameters of such a body, and could change them over time as needed.

“This proposition is the barest measure imaginable that would give Indigenous Australians a formal say in policies and legislation that affect us,” she said.

“We are asking merely for an advisory body to ameliorate the power of the parliament to make laws that could cause us harm.”

Asked what a rejection of the referendum would represent, Langton responded: “I fear a no vote will be interpreted – and falsely, I should say – as a mandate for governments to do nothing and to make our lives worse.

“I think that’s the greatest danger. I also fear that a No vote will be perceived, and again, I say falsely, as a mandate for not establishing consultative bodies,” she said.




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YES and YES....

By Bruce Wearne


“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to the Australian people from First Nations Australians. It asks Australians to walk together to build a better future by establishing a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, and the establishment of a Makarrata Commission for the purpose of treaty making and truth-telling.” (from

The “YES” I plan to cast in the upcoming referendum gains its cogency from the political wisdom implicit in the Uluru Statement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens to fellow citizens. It comes to our polity with a story of persistent political effort, over generations. The story having culminated in recent times now expresses a desire to justly and fairly raise a “First Nations Voice”. Of course indigenous voices can be heard in ongoing ways in our political life and they will still be with us in the days ahead. The Uluru Statement is an invitation delivered with deep conviction to all Australian citizens; we are asked to affirm a suggested amendment to the Constitution and thus cast a vote to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Of course, this is about justice for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; but not only for them. We, bound with each other as this polity’s citizens, stand in need of a constitution that is alive with due respect for all even while, in doing so, it should be especially explicit to those fellow Australian citizens who are descendents of those who resided in these lands long before British settlement.

The state-crafting responsibility of all citizens is always on the line; we are never just voters at election time or, as in this case, with Referendums. This invitation reminds us of our political responsibility for this place on our earth, located in the Indo-South West Pacific. That must also mean due respect for those who were here before the colonies were established, long before our Commonwealth’s Constitution was enacted. Our task as citizens involves ensuring that justice, due respect for all, characterizes all public governance. The Uluru Statement should be heard as a call to fulfill that inalienable responsibility.

Those extending this Uluru invitation are demonstrating sensitive political awareness of their duty for the health of this polity; they remind the rest of us of our solemn duties and responsibilities. Such shared responsibility makes us corporately accountable for how we are governed, how justice has been, is and will be administered, and for how the Constitution frames our life together.

The invitation of the Uluru Statement presupposes, as the Constitution presupposes, that our duty as citizens is to remain politically alert to how our public-legal life is being conducted under the Constitution. Our citizenship does not derive from any party allegiance. When the Constitution needs amendment – as the Constitution itself presumes it will need from time to time – we have a task to step up and do what we can to ensure that the proposed change is just and will enable the further promotion of justice in renewing and healthy ways. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is the latest example of citizens with indigenous heritage and identity “stepping up” to make their contribution to a just amendment to our Constitution.

The Uluru challenge is of course about a vote for a constitutional amendment, and it comes at this time as a call that can also deepen our appreciation as citizens for the part all of us are called to play in fomenting the political health of this our Commonwealth. And that must also include ongoing resistance to unhealthy political trends that these days live side-by-side with a sad lack of trust in our political party dominated Parliaments. The reform of our form of parliamentary democracy may well be needed. But will we allow our concerns with its current state in this polity to prevent us from voting “YES”? No.

There are many political issues with which we must wrestle, as we answer the call to humbly serve our neighbours at home and abroad with justice, with due respect to their place in our lives, and also for our own place in their lives. Our Commonwealth’s Constitution needs to explicitly affirm due respect for fellow citizens descended from those who resided here long before British settlement. This Uluru Statement from the Heart reminds us of our shared political solidarity under the Constitution with a challenge that extends due respect while inviting us to keep on walking together for justice.

The key point for me is this: there may have been no First Nations voice into the Constitution back at the turn of the 19th century when British Colonial Governments ceded power “up” to a Federal Government for an Australian Commonwealth, but it will certainly be a sign of our own Commonwealth’s maturity for our Constitution to now include the considered mature suggestion of how First Nations people are to be recognised in our corporate life. We should vote with thanks for the voiced leadership of the diverse First Nations people of our polity.






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