2023 will be a year that will challenge the way all Australians view our country’s First Nations history, culture and the way we work together to reconcile the mistakes of the past, with the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament being a once in a life time opportunity to unify as Australians. NAB’s goal is to engage and inform our colleagues throughout the year on what a Voice to Parliament is, and how a vote to support constitutional change will close the many gaps of disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
In January NAB invited Thomas Mayo, a Torres Strait Islander man, author, advocate and a maritime union representative to share his story of involvement in the Voice campaign and help colleagues understand what is being asked and what it will mean for Indigenous people and Australia if the referendum is successful and or not successful.
In order to understand what may lay ahead, Thomas outlined how the concept of a Voice to Parliament came about by sharing his insights on the conception of the Uluru Statement from the Heart 2017. Delegates from hundreds of First Nations communities across Australia overwhelmingly endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for a constitutionally entrenched First Nations Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata commission to oversee a process of treaty-making and truth-telling.
However as Thomas outlined to NAB colleagues, what sets the proposed Voice apart from past Indigenous advisory bodies its is constitutionally entrenched status. Governments of all different persuasions will come and go, but an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will remain to advise the government of the day on what is best for the people it represents.
Thomas emphasised that we all have a responsibility over the coming months to better understand what will be asked of us before we head to the ballot box later this year.
As the Uluru Statement from the Heart articulates; “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.” we have a unique opportunity at this year’s referendum to finally ensure that this Voice isn’t just heard, but granted a seat at the table for generations to come.
NAB supports an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and acknowledges Australia’s First Nations people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and their continuing connection to country, sea and water. We pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
This story has been updated to honour a change in name.