Josh Pallas: Statement on the Voice Referendum #VoteYes

Six years ago, in the heart of this nation, a proclamation was made. Over 250 delegates representing First Nations joined to deliver the Uluru Statement from the Heart, inviting Australians to enshrine an Indigenous Voice within the constitution and to advance truth telling and treaty making.

We are mere weeks until the referendum day on the 14th October when Australians will vote on whether to enshrine a Voice in the Constitution. I take this moment to reiterate our support for a First Nations Voice to Parliament. We strive, in this moment, to be the best allies we can. I note that the discourse surrounding the referendum campaign has reified intergenerational trauma and unearthed historic injustices and the Voice is only one vehicle through which First Nations’ justice may be achieved in Australia.

The Voice presents a modest milestone on the path to Indigenous recognition. The Voice will have the power to make recommendations to Parliament and the Executive on Indigenous affairs, it will not be able to veto legislation nor provide extra voting powers in Parliament. As NSWCCL submitted to the parliamentary inquiries about the proposed Constitutional change, the Voice is not legally risky but will go some way to rectifying the deficit of Indigenous voices that listened to in matters of law and policy.

The time for deliberation has ended, it is time to act. This referendum won’t destroy or diminish democracy, it will expand and enhance it. Since being left out of our nation's first constitutional debates on federation a century ago First Nations people have been ignored in the corridors of power. Expanding the Australian story with a Voice to Parliament will mean that First Nations’ voices cannot so easily be ignored by those in power. A yes vote in the Referendum will also leave no obstacles before the government which can then get on with the long overdue processes of truth telling and treaty making thereafter.

I leave you with an extract from Legal Scholar and Cobble Cobble woman, Megan Davis in her recent quarterly essay on the Voice:

“When people say this is about changing Australian identity, it’s not. It’s about location; we are located here together, we are born here, we arrive here, we die here and we must coexist in a peaceful way... The fundamental message that many elders planted in the Uluṟu Statement is that to face this battle together, the country needs peace, and the country cannot be at peace until we meet; the Uluṟu Statement is the beginning of that.”

Vote Yes!

Josh Pallas, President