‘Yes’ campaign begins in the Murraylands ahead of Voice referendum
Ngarrindjeri Ruwe Empowered Communities has launched an independent campaign urging people to vote “yes” on October 14.
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Just focus on the question.
That’s one Ngarrindjeri elder’s advice as the Voice referendum campaign gets going in the Murraylands.
Community development organisation Ngarrindjeri Ruwe Empowered Communities has launched a website with information about why people should vote “yes” to the Voice, and will soon begin posting leaflets out to voters.
Leaders such as Lawrie Rankine have made themselves available to sporting clubs and community groups who’d like to have someone come and talk about what the referendum means to Aboriginal people.
But Eunice Aston urged everyone to remember that the vote was not about land rights, or federal spending, or politics, or anything else.
It was about creating an advisory body, one that could not easily be abolished.
“This referendum gives us a solid place in the constitution and means (the Voice) can’t be struck away with a pen, like every advisory body before it,” Ms Aston said.
It was not about giving more money to Indigenous people; it was about giving Indigenous people more say about how existing money was spent.
“We know a lot of money comes into Murray Bridge, into the Ngarrindjeri nation … but we don’t decide how it’s handed out,” she said.
“The things we do here – NREC, Kalparrin – are the ones that do all the ground work and you do it with nothing.”
Mr Rankine, NREC’s CEO, encouraged everyone to research the proposal at hand instead of getting lost in related issues.
“People are getting distracted by political agendas and baseless information that’s actually false about Aboriginal people,” he said.
October 14 is the date all Australians will be asked to vote on the Voice, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced in Adelaide on Wednesday.
‘The current system has failed and must change’
A fortnight ago, NREC became one of 23 South Australian organisations to sign an open letter in support of the Yes campaign.
In part, the letter said:
Australia is not yet complete. Australia is built on an ancient Indigenous foundation which is not yet recognised in the nation’s rulebook, the Constitution.
This reform is supported by the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who want a say in decisions made about them, so we can all see better results for Indigenous families and communities. The current system has failed and must change. This is why Indigenous people have proposed a form of recognition that is both symbolic and practical.
Other signatories included the SA Council of Social Service, a peak body whose local members include AC Care, the Migrant Resource Centre, Red Cross, Community Living Australia, Skylight Mental Health, St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army.
Mr Rankine pointed to the poorer health outcomes and higher imprisonment rates among Indigenous people as examples of the ways governments had failed over the 235 years since British settlement.
Referendum result will send a message about reconciliation
The reason the vote was significant was not about the practicalities, but the message it would send, Ms Aston suggested.
Would Australians choose unity or division?
After all, Indigenous leaders, including in Murray Bridge, had spent years working on the proposal which will be put to the people on October 14.
At the constitutional convention at Uluru in 2017, an overwhelming majority of delegates from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations around the country had voted in favour of what became the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the basis of this Voice campaign.
While No campaigners such as federal MP Tony Pasin have described the proposal as “Labor’s Voice”, Ms Aston said rejecting the Voice would mean rejecting the idea of listening to Indigenous Australians.
“If everybody votes no, where does that leave us as First Nations people?” Ms Aston asked.
“We have given everything to this nation … yet it feels to me sometimes that people get caught up in their own stuff and they’re not thinking about us, they’re not thinking about how we can assist Aboriginal people.
“Change is really scary for everybody, but for us, this thing means we get power over our own destiny.”
Murray Bridge News is not aware of any grassroots campaign for the No vote in the Murraylands.
More information: Visit www.nrec.org.au/nationalvoice or, for the official Yes campaign, www.yes23.com.au. For the No campaign, visit www.fairaustralia.com.au. For more on the proposal, visit voice.niaa.gov.au.
Contact Ngarrindjeri Ruwe Empowered Communities: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Uluru Statement from the Heart: ulurustatement.org.
Check whether you’re enrolled to vote: www.aec.gov.au.
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