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No to The Voice is not no to change

Vote YES
Many Australians are saddened by the failure of the referendum to recognise this land’s First Nations people in the constitution

Vote YES Australia

Many Australians are saddened by the failure of the referendum to recognise this land’s First Nations people in the constitution by establishing a permanent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Voice to Parliament.

Many more Australians are relieved; it was a resounding result, with almost six-in-10 voting No.

That is indeed cause for sadness, because of the message it can be seen to send to First Nations people and to the rest of the world.

But we should resist despair. Two positive things emerged during what was nevertheless a bruising campaign, one that will reverberate in our communities in ways we cannot yet know, but which we can influence.

First, and most important, it is clear the rejection of the referendum question does not mean most Australians are indifferent to the plight of First Nations people. On the contrary, the referendum revealed widespread desire to close the gaps.

Only four of the 19 official targets monitored by the Productivity Commission are on track to be met: preschool enrolment, youth detention, employment, and land subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests.

The second is that the referendum process increased awareness of the problems and the need for reform. The No vote was not a status quo vote. It was a vote against The Voice as the best way, the best model, to progress from a situation no-one considers fair.

In an editorial on our front page ahead of the vote, I said Australians would make history last weekend. And some might feel our nation is on the wrong side of history on this. But, again, that would risk misinterpreting the result as a rejection of reform per se.

It’s not. We know that. What happened is we made history by ignoring history’s lessons. This was Australia’s 45th referendum since federation, of which only eight have succeeded. Each of those had bi-partisan support.

It is disappointing the Yes case did not make sure support was locked in before going to the vote.

Ultimately this is about humanity. We are united by so much more than divides us.

There is an uplifting thing called The Overview Effect. It is what sometimes happens when a person views earth from space.

Research released in 2016 showed “the most prominent common aspects of the astronauts’ experience were appreciation and perception of beauty, unexpected and even overwhelming emotion, and an increased sense of connection to other people and the Earth as a whole’’.

We can listen to each other’s voices. As the team at WomenCAN Australia knows and lives, much progress in driven from the ground up by hearing and responding to the people with knowledge and solutions derived from experience in their communities.

Consensus has emerged that, one way or another, these voices need to be heard. And then acted upon. Change is not optional on these issues, it is compelled by evidence, and we can produce reform that is enlightened, decent, and respectful.

On that, Australians agree.

Go well, Mikaela and the team.

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