28.2 C
Byron Shire
November 28, 2022

‘If not now, then when?’ Time for an enshrined First Nations Voice

Latest News

Education shaping up to be a key battleground in NSW election

There is a teacher shortage and both the NSW Greens and Labor are focussing their efforts on highlighting the situation the NSW public education system is in as they campaign for the next NSW election. 

Other News

Tallow wallabies

Further to Maggie Brown’s letter regarding the incident on Tallow Beach of a wallaby having to be shot by...

Concern over Belongil Creek fish kill event

An investigation is underway into a fill kill event in Belongil Creek earlier this month.

Supernatural on Bay Lane: style, cocktails, natural wine and food

Looking for a perfect date night? Supernatural, Byron’s hidden gem, is tucked away on Bay Lane, nestled between neighbours...

From Margaret River to Byron to save veterans

William ‘Will’ Burnett served in the RAAF for ten years in logistics and ended his career as a well-established physical training Instructor. After his discharge, on his return from the Middle East, his mental health declined and he struggled through the clinical health system.

Varroa mite detection sees Red Zone expanded

NSW Department of Primary Industries Varroa mite tracing and surveillance work has confirmed a new detection of Varroa mite, as field officers continue hive inspections with beekeepers across the state.

Cyclist dies two weeks after crash – Coffs Harbour

NSW Police say a man has died following a crash at Coffs Harbour earlier this month.

Daniel Rosendale, Louise Togo, Nicole Caelli, Stacee Ketchell and Dee Edwards . Photo supplied.

Louise Togo

Two weeks ago, I had a life-changing experience: I went on a trip to Canberra to campaign for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

There were Indigenous teachers, nurses, wharfies, among wide range of livelihoods represented. We came from many different First Nations mobs and parts of the country. It was the grassroots going to the centre of decision making to say we want to be heard.

Dean Parkin, Uncle Kenny Bedford, Members of ‘Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good’, with delegates. Photo supplied.

In Canberra, I spent time with a group called Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good (DIYDG), a group of empowered young people based in Cairns. DIDYG is a youth-led organisation aiming to inspire, equip, and empower the next generation to take actions to change our world for the better. Together with Dean Parkin, director of the Uluru Statement campaign organisation From the Heart, we participated in a few meetings in Parliament House. It didn’t matter which side of politics they came from, we wanted to talk to them all, and there we received positive responses. We also got to meet Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas, who proudly voiced his support. This made me wonder, ‘what is the hold up with taking this to a referendum?’

I have worked on the campaign for the Uluru Statement at a grassroots level for three years now.

Delegates at Parliament House meeting with Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas. Photo supplied.

There are two things I know clearly from the history of First Nations’ struggles. The first is that every time First Nations have built a voice that politically challenges the status quo, it is silenced. This is why the Uluru Statement insists that a Voice, or political representative body, must be protected by the constitution. The second is that opportunities like the Uluru Statement don’t come along often. We cannot waste this opportunity for reform.

In my time as a campaigner, I have found that Australians who are educated about this history decide they will support a Voice referendum. The latest polling from Crosby Textor indicates that 56 per cent of Australians will vote yes at the polls, and only 19 per cent are opposed. This is without leadership backing it in the Australian parliament, and without a well-resourced campaign. This is what we, as Australians, have achieved with a genuinely grassroots campaign.

To be around Indigenous leaders (can you name some?) that I have been following for the past few years, and from whom I’ve drawn knowledge and strength, was a special experience that I will always remember. The energy was electric, it was exhilarating. I came home with a re-ignited fire.

But when I got home, I saw that the prime minister had already responded to our visit, naysaying about how a referendum may fail. I wasn’t surprised about this. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. After all, this is why the Uluru Statement is written to the Australian people, not a politician like Scott Morrison.

National Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) officers Thomas Mayor and Michelle Myers with delegates of the MUA. Photo supplied.

Time to be brave

My greatest disappointment though, was when I read what the co-chairs of the Voice co-design leaders said. Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are running the advisory process developing recommendations for a Voice model. Calma echoed Morrison’s comments, going further to warn that if a referendum did fail, then we risked scuppering the opportunity for reform.

The problem with what Calma said is that if there is no referendum – if a Voice is established only in legislation so that it is vulnerable like our previous national representative bodies – then there hasn’t been a reform at all. We need to be brave and take the question of a Voice to the Australian people, so that it can be guaranteed.

The opinions of Morrison and the co-chairs of the co-design show us why we need a Voice. Morrison is out of touch with the public sentiment; and our leaders who already have a Voice are willing to take whatever is offered without constitutional recognition.

On my final night in Canberra, I listened to Noel Pearson make a speech at the National Museum of Australia. He reminded us all of why constitutional recognition is so important:

‘As long as its Indigenous peoples remain unrecognised, then Australia is an absurdity, a nation missing its most vital heart.’

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. There were wrong doings by both sides, I agree our First Nations People need to be acknowledged separately within our Constitution.
    I will not be held responsible by First Nations People for the sins of those who came before reaching back to Cook. None of these past transgressions towards our First Nations People were agreed to by me, nor are those that currently happen.
    I believe for our First Nations People to move forward and upward, they must first forgive themselves, then forgive those of the past, forgiveness releases the individual from shackles that tie them fast to things that happened in the past. It is not a matter of forgetting, one cannot forget, but forgiveness means you are no longer held a prisoner of the past and you are free to be of the here and now.
    I say this as a sexual assault survivor, I held onto the despair and anger, when I forgave the person responsible for my abuse, I felt relief that I was no longer being held back by my past. I can now say I remember all that took place, but I no longer become so upset by it.

  2. By ignoring the human rights of First Nation Peoples, and as a Nation we are diminished in soul, spirit, integrity, vision and hope for all living species, including ecological structures that aid all survival. First Nation people MUST be Constitutionally acknowledged and aided by Civil Society to bring this Right into existence.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Tallow wallabies

Further to Maggie Brown’s letter regarding the incident on Tallow Beach of a wallaby having to be shot by WIRES owing to dog-induced stress...

Floodwaters essential for ecosystem rejuvenation say experts

Along with the human, infrastructure and economic devastation wrought by recent floods, come environmental costs and even benefits.

A community approach to kids’ mental health

Is your local physiotherapist informed about the impacts of natural-disaster-related trauma on 8 to 12-year-olds?

Avoiding parking fees

I have just discovered the solution to avoid parking fees in Byron Bay. Simply buy a motorcycle and park on the footpath! Works a treat...