There was a Yes 23 talk at Casino Community and Cultural Centre today, Saturday, September 16 about the Voice to Parliament.
Advocate Thomas Mayo and journalist Kerry O’Brien have been touring the country speaking about the Voice.
Paula Coghill welcomed the audience of about 70 people.
“Since the announcement (of the referendum), I’ve never seen and heard so much racism,” Ms Coghill said.
“Constitutional change is timely. It’s 2023. This is modern Australia.”
It was 1967 referendum that gave us “the right to vote” she said.
“This is a leadership role for Australia to play on the international front.
“We are divided because we are not in the constitution.”
On October 14, Australians will be asked a yes or no question.
The question 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 work through an advisory body that will make representations to parliament and it will be the parliament of the day that will have the power to make laws.
“We’re not going to take your backyard,” Ms Coghill said.
“We’re not going to take your swimming pools.”
Mr Mayo spoke about how he was invited to be part of the process for the Uluru Statement of the Heart. This statement informs the Voice to Parliament.
“This is taking a step forward in unity,” he said.
“This will help reduce the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people.”
Mr O’Brien talked about the history of Aboriginal groups set up to help close the gap, only to be dismantled when there was a change of government. This happened to ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, that ran from 1990 to 2005 before it was disbanded by the Howard government.
Mr O’Brien said he had reported on the big indigenous issues of our times from land rights, Mabo, native title and more.
“People don’t like the idea of change,” he said.
“We have the chance to change or add a rule to our constitution in the referendum.
“I’ve watched history unfold. I’ve seen us go two steps forward and one step back – sometimes two steps back.”
“This is a no-brainer.”
Mr Mayo said it was a simple change.
“It recognises First Nations peoples to make representation to matters that affect us.
“Parliament will decide the rest.”
The audience was invited to ask questions.
Several questions were about trust, sovereignty and the process to get to the referendum.
“This (the Voice) doesn’t affect our sovereignty,” Mr Mayo said.
Twice Ms Coghill stepped up to the mic to remind people to ask, “intelligent questions”.
“I’m 54 years old. I was born two years after the referendum,” she said.
“I still struggle to have a voice in this country.
“We can argue about what could have been, what should have been but this is an opportunity to do something great for this nation.”
Ms Coghill said she grew up in Tabulam – on the mission.
“That was not my choice,” she said.
“The vote will affect me and my family personally.
“I hope and pray (the vote) is an overwhelming yes.”
Peter Walker stood and addressed the audience. He said he hadn’t made up his mind about the Voice yet.
“About 300m from here – I was raised,” he said.
“My mother was taken and died in Casino Hospital.
“There is a history of racism here. I’m not here to attack anyone but the first thing that needs to change to how we treat each other.
“I want to see something change in my lifetime. I am a man of this land.”
Mr Walker said he didn’t like how Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people were considered as one when they were very different groups.
The next Voice talk is at the Kyogle Bowling Club on September 24 at 2pm.