aboriginal and torres strait islander
Unions get behind ‘Yes’ campaign on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament17 March 2023
In 2023, Australia will hold a referendum to decide whether an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice should be enshrined in the Constitution. If supported, the change would enable First Nations people to provide advice to the Parliament on a range of policies and laws that impact their lives.
Standing in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the union movement, including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has unanimously committed to backing a ‘Yes’ vote in the historic referendum.
According to Lara Watson, a Birri Gubba woman from Central West Queensland and Indigenous Officer with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), a First Nations Voice will provide a permanent line of communication for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Australian Government, enabling a say on important issues.
A key component of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which offers an invitation to the Australian people to work with Aboriginal people to take action, a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution will further pave the way towards an Indigenous treaty and a comprehensive process of truth-telling about Australia’s history, including genocide and the Stolen Generations, says Watson.
“We know that not having direct input into the policies and laws that are made for us has delivered very harmful policies, like the Northern Territory Intervention, that just decimated our communities,” Watson explained.
“The reason why a Voice is being asked to be recognised in the Constitution is for its permanency. What we have seen in the past is organisations that have been set up for us to have a voice, or set up by us, are either set up to fail or another Government comes in and the funding is stripped, so that organisation disappears.
“If we have something that is actually embedded in the Constitution, that only the Australian people can change, it gives us the capacity to be able to build on that work and not have to start from scratch all over again.”
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