Tanya Hosch on the Voice

This exclusive article first appeared in Dunstan News edition 3 2023.

In 2000 I was sitting in the hall at the Australian National University in Canberra. Alongside the many other people who had gathered there I considered myself one of the lucky ones as we were there to see the South African human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela receive his honorary doctorate. Despite being some distance from him my lasting memory is one being thrilled and honoured to share the space with a person who has given so much too so many.

As the Vice Chancellor spoke, I was moved by the citation. Hearing all the reasons why he was awarded this honour and the incredible nation building work he led following his historic election. It was hard to conceive of the vastness of his life which now I was sharing in, in some minuscule way.

From this experience it piqued my interest and understanding regarding all the change South Africa had absorbed as they finally moved on from Mandela’s wrongful imprisonment, the end of Apartheid and their work for change, for a more equal, just and stable South Africa.

They were biting off so much at once and I wondered then, as I wonder now, could we, Australia, succeed with so much change at once.

In 2023, as a country, we have the power and opportunity to create a fundamental and significant change. This year, we as a nation are going to the vote and the type of vote we don’t have very often.

This vote is called a Referendum and a successful Referendum is the only way to change the Australian Constitution. This is the first time, since the Constitution was forged in 1901, that we are specifically voting to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into our highest legal document.

The proposed question to which we must answer Yes or No is: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

The Voice will be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body that will have its governance structure detailed through legislation once a successful Referendum has been achieved.

This change both recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution but also provides for a permanent structure for us to speak directly to Government about the issues that continue to impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, since 1788 and 1901. It has taken too long to be heard and with the Voice it will make the lives of First Nations Australians better and fairer. In doing this it will benefit of the whole country in ways we cannot imagine.

There are those who will argue and vote for no change as they will feel this is asking too much.

There are those who will argue and vote for no change as they feel this is asking for too little.

And then, there are those of us who will vote yes because we know the country needs to finally address this aching hole in the Constitution for 122 years.  

Many Australians know what we have in place now in terms of policies and programs at Federal, state and local level is not providing the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This requires change. Because without it things will simply remain as they are or get worse. We then have to ask ourselves are we prepared for this to occur.

There will be attempts to politicise this Referendum. We must resist this.

This Referendum isn’t about politics or politicians. This Referendum is about Australians voting to recognise the First Peoples of this country and ensure we can continue to be heard.

That is all this Referendum is about. A simple and significant change.

A change that is well overdue, a change that can bring great opportunities for all Australians. And a change that presents a chance for new conversations, based on a fundamental recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have always been here and can no longer be ignored.

To help play your part in this movement for change, go to: yes23.com.au