As a student of history, there are moments in time that I look back on with awe. I wonder what it must have been like to be part of that movement, that tectonic shift.
We are now in one of those catalytic moments. One that sets people, families, communities and countries on new trajectories.
The Prime Minister has announced the referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, will be held on Saturday 14 October.
This moment, this referendum, is an opportunity for us to be responsible ancestors of the future. We can make it the Saturday in our history that Australia says a resounding ‘YES’.
YES to constitutional recognition, YES to a Voice, and YES to the belief that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right, and the expertise, to direct their own futures.
We’ll be voting YES to a better future for all Australians.
The Government has, just last week, published the 2023 Intergenerational Report, which predicts that over the coming decades we’ll see an ageing population, growing demand for care and support services, and the impacts of climate change on how we choose to live and work, on food and energy security and our environment.
How we negotiate the forces shaping the Australian economy now, will have a profound impact on what the nation looks like in 2063. The status quo is not good enough, and an Australia that is divided cannot possibly harness the best of our collective talents, knowledge, and experience to address emerging challenges. We are doing ourselves a disservice if we ignore 65,000 years of First Nations’ culture, knowledge and wisdom.
We must recognise the interconnectedness between culture, family, and country, and how essential it is to achieve social, economic, justice, community, and environmental outcomes with, and alongside, First Nations people.
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend Garma, joining leaders across the country to celebrate culture and engage in dialogue. We paid homage to Garma’s former Chairman, Yunupingu, acknowledging his immense contribution and legacy, and together celebrated Yolŋu excellence.
For anyone who has spent time on beautiful Yolŋu country, you’ll know what a magical experience it is, and how a few days can refuel your love of humanity, your connections to the land, waters and sky. There is something about laying beneath the stars of North-East Arnhem Land, hearing creation stories and experiencing the generations-long learning of First Nations peoples, that helps you reimagine what might be possible.
Garma was a chance to experience culture in action; to feel how the past creates the future; to witness the transformative effect of shifting resources, decision making, and power.
Ultimately, Garma was an opportunity to learn – to learn how things were done for the 65,000 years before white people arrived here; and to learn how things can be done when we are open to sharing space, sharing country and walking beside each other in genuine partnership.
YES is not just a word we will write in the polling booth.
YES is about becoming better allies, and bequeathing a better future and a better Australia for those who are here now and those who come after us.
The time to act is now. Join me in being part of a pivotal moment in Australia’s history: Saturday 14 October 2023 - the day, we say a collective ‘YES’.