I’ll be Voting Yes

In Archive by Fran Bryson

My letter to Flinders Island’s ‘Island News’ 28 September 2023

Dear Editor,

It was with interest that I saw Jude Cazaly’s letter about voting yes in the last ‘Island News’. I didn’t read it immediately, wanting to write though my own reasoning first. Because writing helps me think and I was a bit concerned that I was always too certain I’d be voting yes. Was my view considered enough? So here goes:

I’ll be voting yes because ‘The Uluru Statement from the Heart’ is a coherent, cohesive, and intelligent document. It is generous. It makes sense to me.

The Statement asks for three things. The referendum only deals with one: ‘constitutional reforms to empower [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander] people and take a rightful place in our own country’ [the emphasis is in the original]. The signatories simply ‘seek to be heard’.

The referendum wording – the wording we vote on – specifically states that the parliament retains its power over a Voice. A Voice will only have the power to make ‘representations’ to government. It won’t be making or changing laws. That’s still the job of our elected representatives. And a Voice will only have a chance to influence issues affecting Aboriginal and TI peoples. Not other members of the Australian community.

I can’t see how the proposed change to the constitution takes anything away from me. It only gives.

Plenty of countries around the world provide constitutional recognition of their First Nations People and the sky hasn’t fallen in. Three of those countries are our close friends and, we like to think, contemporaries: Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Many countries have formal provisions to hear the voices of, and even have treaties with, their First Nations People.

Travelling around the world, which I do for both work and pleasure, I have found myself at times mortified that Australia is (still) perceived as a deeply racist nation. Constitutional recognition and provision of a Voice will, I hope, go some way to changing that perception.

We like to think of ourselves as punching above our weight in many areas, especially on the world stage. When we win a position on the UN Security Council for example. We like – expect – to be listened to. But we don’t listen well enough to our own. We have been, politely and persistently, asked to listen. We are being asked to listen again. So yes, let’s listen.

Jude Cazaly’s letter makes some fine points too. There are just so many reasons to vote yes.

And I will be voting yes not because it’s merely the right thing to do. It is, in my view, the only thing to do.


Fran Bryson