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Australians make history this weekend.

The referendum on Saturday 14 October can either be a moment of shared respect and healing, a strengthening of a nation that likes to pride itself on fairness.

Or it can be a sad moment, one where people who want decency, progress and justice are being misled and alarmed by falsehoods and conspiracies.

Fairness ought to trump fear. But it often does not.

We either say yes or no to constitutional recognition and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to the Australian Parliament.

That would be a historic stride on the path to reconciliation after the dispossession and multiple traumas inflicted on this land’s first peoples.

Or we can say no. That would be a historic stumble on the path to reconciliation, a rejection of a modest, simple, reasonable proposition.

The debate has been jarring. Behaviour on both sides has been unedifying. The referendum’s failure would cause so many people so much pain and anger. Its success would lift the nation.

It’s a nation with a fair bit of history. The first peoples of this land have cared for it for 65,000 years, the oldest continuous culture on this our only planet.

Imagine, if you will, those 65,000 years represented by a single day. To put European settlement into perspective, that means the first fleet turned up a few seconds before, literally, five minutes to midnight.

Above all, this is about respect. As I said months ago, when we came out in support of The Voice:

I certainly do not want to tell anyone how to vote. I want to explain why I am voting yes.

This brilliant video by rapper Briggs and comedy duo Jenna Owen and Vic Zerbst has been viewed millions of times since it was published on 4 October. There’s a good reason. It’s worth sticking to the end.

A risk is in the message a no vote would send to the First Peoples, the rest of the population, and the world. I believe we’re bigger and better than that.

As the founder and CEO of a not-for-profit organisation that helps women reclaim their financial independence, I constantly witness the effects of systemic discrimination and disadvantage on many women’s lives.

And every day I also observe the inspiring the effects of giving women a voice, a choice, and an opportunity to shape their own future.

Mikaela Stafrace established WomenCAN Australia in 2019.


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