For everyone Campaigning for Yes

  • By Rachel Power
  • This article was published more than 8 months ago.
  • 31 Jul 2023

The union movement has a crucial role to play in the campaign for a ‘yes’ vote for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian Constitution. As ACTU president Sally McManus says, “We’re by far the largest people’s movement in the country and by far the most effective campaigners.”

Australia is the only country in the world that doesn’t have a treaty with its First Nations people. The Voice is the first step in that process. The proposal for a Voice to Parliament comes out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for First Nations people to have a say on government decisions about them.

“There’s a proud history of unionists standing with us many times throughout history. This is union business; it has been for a long time.”

Thomas Mayo

“They are asking us to walk alongside them to achieve this; it goes to our values of solidarity and equality and believing in a better life for everyone in Australia,” says McManus.

Thomas Mayo, a Torres Strait Islander man born on Larrakia country, says the union movement’s support for Indigenous Australians stretches back to the first Aboriginal advocacy groups at the start of the 20th century. He says unions were also among the first groups to support the Uluru Statement, and they have an “absolutely vital” role to play in gaining a ‘Yes’ vote and achieving the “justice yet to be gained” for Australia’s First Nations people.

Thomas Mayo

FAQs on The Voice TO PARLIAMENT from the uluru dialogue

What is a First Nations Voice?

The First Nations Voice is the first proposal contained within the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It is a constitutionally protected body of First Nations people which will advise the federal parliament and the executive government, able to influence laws and policies at the point they originate.

How will a First Nations Voice help communities?

A Voice will mean government has better quality information about First Nations communities and issues, delivered directly from those communities themselves. This information from communities will result in better quality laws and policies, better targeted investment, and ultimately better outcomes for First Nations people across many sectors.

What is the Uluru Statement from the Heart and how is it linked to the Voice?

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is the culmination of 13 regional dialogues with First Nations people which arrived at a consensus about what constitutional recognition should look like. The Statement is an invitation from First Nations people to all Australians. One of its key features is to ask Australians to support meaningful constitutional recognition through providing a First Nations Voice.

What shape would a First Nations Voice take?

The referendum will ask Australians if they agree with the principle that First Nations people should have a seat at the table when decisions are being made about their lives. The exact shape will be determined by the parliament following a successful referendum. This allows for the shape to be changed by parliaments over time, according to the conditions of the day. Put simply, the constitution is for the principles, the concept. The parliament is for the shape, the bricks and mortar.

Do First Nations peoples support this Voice?

Yes. Independent research undertaken in January 2023 shows 80% of First Nations people support the Voice.

Why is the sequence Voice, then Treaty and Truth?

We’re starting with the ‘big law’ – the Constitution is the highest law in the land. This is the best way for us to ensure tangible outcomes to improve the lives of First Nations peoples.

Source: The Uluru Dialogue represents the cultural authority of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and leads community education on the Uluru Statement’s reforms of Voice, Treaty and Truth. Find more FAQs at ulurustatement.org/education/faqs

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