Proud to support a Voice to Parliament, it’s an important step.
7 February 2023
Today The West published my op-ed on the Voice to Parliament:
I am proud to support a Voice to Parliament alongside the other elements of the Uluru Statement; Truth and Treaty.
While the Voice alone will not bring all the changes our First Nations population needs, it is an important step in the long journey to reconciliation the Nations still needs to complete. Giving First Nations people a Voice on matters that impact them is, in my view self-evidently a good thing and a principle I expect most Australians would support.
2023 is potentially one of the most important years for reconciliation this nation has seen. This could be a hugely unifying moment, and there is an unprecedented degree of momentum for reconciliation that we should seize.
We have come so far since Fremantle Council kicked off a national debate about not celebrating on January 26th. This idea, which was radical only a few years ago, is now increasingly mainstream. It has been wonderful to see this shift and I hope we can keep building on the community pressure for change.
That said, we shouldn’t ignore the concerns of those speaking against the Voice.
Over recent weeks I have been having lots of conversations about the Voice, including with many First Nations leaders, who have, unsurprisingly, shared a wide range of views with me.
While most I have spoken with support the Voice, there are many who still have legitimate questions about how it will help First Nations people who suffer big gaps in housing, health, imprisonment, and education – all of which need closing with urgency.
There is also a, not unreasonable, fear (especially among grassroots First Nations activists) that progress on the Uluru Statement will stop at the Voice and that the equally important Truth and Treaty aspects will not be progressed with any urgency.
Finally, there’s concern that a Voice in the constitution might cede First Nations sovereignty.
We heard these issues raised by many who spoke at Perth’s Invasion Day rally.
Polling shows that an overwhelming majority of First Nations people support the Voice, however more needs to be done to address these legitimate concerns.
The issue of sovereignty needs to be unambiguously clarified with publicly accessible legal advice so that more First Nations leaders feel comfortable supporting the Voice.
Ensuring that Voice is just the first step is one reason why Senator Dorinda Cox and I joined with First Nations leaders last week to call on the McGowan Government to progress a Truth-Telling process in WA.
Most other states have taken steps on this important journey of Truth-Telling, but WA is lagging behind. This is critical work and should be urgently progressed alongside Treaty and Voice to work toward reconciliation.
With progress on the Voice underway, WA must simultaneously progress the robust Truth-Telling process that is central to the Uluru Statement and fundamental to true reconciliation.
A referendum for the Voice shows that there is momentum towards reconciliation that we have not seen for decades. We should support this momentum and work to ensure it doesn’t stop there.