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The Voice referendum

First Nations peoples have suffered severely debilitating health and economic outcomes as a result of over 200 years of suppression resulting from colonisation.

The Voice referendum is a critical means of recognising that the First Nations people exist and that they need to be heard. The referendum is asking us to approve a change to the constitution so that it guarantees that opportunity to be heard. The constitution is a high-level scoping document that defines the limits and obligations of the federal states governments. It is the reference by which laws and regulations enacted by legislatures have to comply. It is not meant to contains the details of any legislation meant to comply with it.

Many supporting the No campaign are citing the lack of details as a reason to vote no. This is disingenuous because the constitution is not meant to provide details, but just outline that legislation must be provided, what it must do, and who will enact it. Such details at the constitutional level would lock the country into a fixed result that would be difficult to change as circumstances change. Societies evolve as their peoples' attitudes and expectations change. The constitution must not place unnecessary limits on that.

As per the proposal, the changes would recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by specifying that:

  1. a.there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
  2. b.the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  3. c.the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

That's it, yet many imply that this change is racist and will create division. To counter these, we just have to see that First Nations peoples have much poorer health outcomes and rates of incarceration rates than the national average. Up until the 1967 referendum, First Nations peoples were excluded from even being counted in the census. The British colonisation was based on a doctrine of Terra Nullus that stated that the land was not previously occupied, despite over 60,000 years of occupation. There has been over 200 years of definitive racism leading to the poor current outcomes.

While there are many organisations that represent various First Nations peoples, they do not guarantee the unified means of presenting their concerns that the Voice proposal outlines. Any of these current organisations are not guaranteed continued existence by the constitution, and are limited by their own articles as to what they can do and who they can represent. The Voice proposal may well make many of such organisations obsolete. Better outcomes for sections of society require advocacy, and that is better done by a means that favours that being expressed by those that have suffered.

Some First Nations peoples prefer a Treaty as they state that the Voice does not go far enough. This assumes that everything else stops after the Voice. The Voice was always only a means of presenting unified views, which would be a better prerequisite to any treaty negotiations than a plethora of sectional interest groups, and more likely to result in uniformly better outcomes. Any treaty negotiations would be protracted, just because of the amount of issues to be thrashed out, so having an existing means of presenting unified views along the way would be of great benefit.

The referendum itself is not creating division, but the misinformation, lies and emotive wording of many in the No campaign is obviously aimed at inciting that division, with some expressing quite racist views, or seeking political advantage from such divisions. These are all aimed at sowing fear and doubt among the population, and stroking prejudices within sections of it. Over 90% voted yes in the 1967 referendum, but too many now seem to want to hijack this referendum for their own ends. Don't believe their lies.

The wording of the Voice proposal is very clear and allows a lot of leeway for the legislature to make it work or bury it in bureaucracy. It is a starting point, but does not guarantee that any advice received will be acted upon, so any claims about it being a sort of veto on government is patently false, and just more lies. We, as a nation, have much work to do to make reparations for the lives our ancestors and us continue to deny justice for. Token recognition is not enough, but it is a start to an orderly process of dealing with it.

Pretending that the past is not our responsibility is disingenuous, as we all have benefitted from the injustice. Healing the results of that past will cost us, but we cannot avoid it. Anyone who denies taking the opportunity to repair the damage and make a more equitable future is denying a national healing opportunity, of which the Voice proposal is the immediate next step. Don't stand with the racists and revelers in fears and doubts, but join with lifting the First Nations peoples to being equal partners with everyone else in Australia.

Voted No△

Australians had an opportunity to take a step towards bringing First Nations peoples onto an equal footing but seems to have succumbed to misinformation and doubts created by the No campaign.

The No campaign spread a huge amount of disinformation about the Voice in an effort to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). It seems to have paid off. Unfortunately, almost all of it was lies and none was about fairness or making First Nations peoples have a better life. It was basically more of the right-wing propaganda designed to undermine democracy by creating distrust and false divisions. That Australians fell for it is very disappointing. The FUD spread during the 2022 elections was overwhelmingly ignored, but Voice FUD took hold. Why is the question.

Australia does have many racists. Whether there are 20% is debatable, but getting the true numbers is difficult because few will openly admit it. First Nations peoples are only about 3% of the whole population, so most people will not have an opinion about them based upon personal experience. They were only recognised as part of Australia's population after the 1967 referendum abolished excluding them, so there is a cultural backdrop of them being unworthy of consideration. However, the constitution now does not mention them at all. 60,000+ years of civilisation ignored.

The Guardian's analysis of voting in different areas showed that those areas that had many educated people tended to vote yes, but areas with mostly well-off people, especially those who built their own wealth, rather than as a result of educational level, overwhelmingly voted no. The latter group would have been more susceptible to fears the No campaign spread around wealth being targeted if the referendum passed. This was a blatant lie, but those who jealously guard their wealth seem to be prone to such nonsense, and don't want to know the truth.

It seems that selfishness is a big predictor of how easily people will avoid helping others. This shows why the right-wing rhetoric, propaganda, misinformation and lies is undermining societal cohesion, and indicates that the neoliberal philosophy of selfishness first is dangerous and must be countered by promoting why consideration of others helps all of us. The No campaign was funded by billionaires to further their own agenda and they didn't care about the welfare of First Nations peoples at all, or even anybody else, and not even those who they persuaded to vote no.

The No campaign was also targeting those who are suffering hardship from the higher cost of living, as if they will miss out if First Nations people get anything. They are the ones susceptible to strawman arguments about others who are getting more than them. The No advocates didn't care about them and the billionaires who funded the campaign are the people who profit off their misfortune, but always point to others as the supposed elites who are creating the problems. Look to who really profits from the inequality, and it will be those who run companies that hike up prices during crises.

A disappointing result, but other means will have to be found to bring First Nations peoples a way to be heard so that we come to a means of bringing them up to equality that doesn't just impose a regime on them that they have had no say about. We owe them that much! Meanwhile, those who truly want to bring fairness to our society really need to stop pandering to elite selfish billionaires and tax their wealth to properly fund a fair and supportive society. Pretending that they are helping us is delusion, and the referendum results demonstrated that.

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