On Voice Referendum Day, Don’t Let This Dangerous Proposition Tear Us Apart

An opinion piece published in The Australian, October 13, 2023

There are any number of reasons why Australians should vote No to the voice. It is a proposal that lacks any detail or evidence as to how it would work. Legal experts have repeatedly warned about the inherent risks and the unknowns of how it may be interpreted by the High Court.

The government has made empty promises about its form, they have lied about how many Indigenous Australians support the voice, and they have failed to explain that this proposal has come from only a small number of people, not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

For me, the reason to vote No is even more simple: I don’t want to see our country divided along the lines of race.

Since the 1967 referendum, this country has grown increasingly more unified. The prominence of race in our social discourse fell rapidly, our multicultural character has shone through, and we have become a beacon around the world as a place accepting of all.

With a Warlpiri mother, a white Australian father, a proudly “Scozzie” husband – a new Australian – and our blended family, I understand the incredible gift that our diverse country offers to all Australians.

Whether you’ve been in this country for 60,000 years or became an Australian 60 seconds ago, you are equal in our Constitution. You have the same rights and opportunities – the same democratic voice – as every other Australian. Proponents of the voice want to change that.

The Uluru Statement, which Prime Minister Albanese committed to in full in 2022, calls for voice, treaty and truth.

The voice is the first step, enshrining division in the Constitution, but it is not the last. For all the emotional blackmail about this being a “modest” request that “Indigenous people have asked for” themselves, the truth is there is nothing modest about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

This is not an attempt to solve Indigenous disadvantage; this is an attempt to divide us, to tear at the fabric of this nation and remake our country through an enormous change to our founding document. Australians have been lied to and told this is our last hope, but it is not.

If we truly want to solve Indigenous disadvantage in this country, we need to be honest about where the problem is. We must focus on need, not race.

We need to be real about the fact “the gap” is more about place than race, and acknowledge that it is widest in remote and rural Australia, in communities where English is not a first language, where education levels are low, food and clean water are scarcer, unemployment is higher, and medical care flies in once a week.

The voice, and its proponents, ignore that reality.

The voice is a dangerous proposal. It is full of legal risks, unknowns and empty promises. It is the first step in dividing our country, when we should be working towards unity.

By voting No, Australians are saying that we want to remain unified, that we want to solve our problems together, and that we want to be one together, not two divided.