Indigenous activists and scholars convened to discuss the future of the Voice to Parliament referendum as the voting date approaches. The event, held at an undisclosed location, featured prominent speakers Erin O’Leary, a Dunghutti activist with a strong background in advocating for Indigenous rights, and Paddy Gibson, a researcher from the Jumbunna Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).
Both speakers addressed the mounting challenges facing the Voice to Parliament proposal and offered insights into alternative pathways for achieving meaningful change for Indigenous communities.
Erin O’Leary, in her opening remarks, candidly acknowledged that while many individuals may cast a “Yes” vote as a means of opposing the divisive rhetoric of political figures like Peter Dutton and Jacinta Price, there are genuine reservations about the Voice’s ability to bring about substantive change for Indigenous communities.
“The Voice is at risk of becoming a token gesture,” O’Leary said. “We need to ensure it goes beyond symbolic recognition and leads to real progress in addressing the issues faced by Indigenous Australians.”
Paddy Gibson delved deep into the nuances of the Voice to Parliament proposal and the imperative for a renewed commitment to grassroots protest movements. Gibson argued that Indigenous communities should not rely on the Voice as the sole vehicle for change, emphasising the paramount importance of direct action and activism.
“The declining support for the Voice underscores the fact that more substantial, community-driven initiatives are necessary to tackle the pressing issues of Indigenous rights, self-determination, and social justice.”
The discussion throughout the event was robust and dynamic, showcasing the multifaceted nature of the Voice to Parliament debate. While there was recognition of the potential value of the Voice, there was an overarching sentiment that additional measures, including persistent activism and community mobilisation, would be indispensable in achieving comprehensive and long-lasting change.
One attendee, an Indigenous rights advocate, added, “The Voice should be a tool for us, not just a symbol. We’ve fought too long and too hard to settle for anything less than real change.”
With the referendum date inching nearer, Anthony Albanese, leader of the Australian Labor Party, and the Yes campaign have responded to a dip in support by pivoting their focus, emphasising that the Voice would hold limited power and predominantly concern constitutional recognition. This shift in messaging has inadvertently fueled arguments and doubts within the No campaign, adding to the growing uncertainty surrounding the proposal’s potential efficacy.
The event concluded with an impassioned call to action, urging Indigenous communities and their allies to persist in their fight for justice and self-determination, irrespective of the referendum’s outcome. As the referendum date draws closer, the resolve to affect tangible change remains unwavering in the hearts and minds of those committed to justice for Indigenous communities.