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Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The referendum has to be fully understood. One of the things is recognising the continuous occupation of this country by Aboriginal Australians – we are the oldest living culture in the world, one is giving recognition to the oldest surviving culture in the world. 

And in doing that, given an acknowledgement that they have to have a say in the way their lives are lived. Non-Aboriginal people should not be making decisions on their behalf and have to have direct input in the mix.

The Voice is about recognising that the Aboriginal people have been here for a long time, and we need to hear from them. This is what needs to be put into the Constitution.

Things are not working the way they are. Look at the Closing The Gap report: the policies for Aboriginal people have been made by non-Aboriginal people people who don’t have  the contact, don’t have the understanding of what needs to be happening in Aboriginal communities. 

The Government should not be doing anything about us without us. Nothing about us without us.

And why not? Why not give Aboriginal people a voice? The mining companies get a voice, the farmers get a voice.

Why not give it to the Indigenous people who have had their own law, the own governance, for thousands of years?

They had good governance, good eldership, good leadership. Just recognise that. They had to have it, they survived here for all these years, and that was taken away by colonisation.

The Voice values Aboriginal people, recognising who we are, that we are the original inhabitants here. Even other indigenous nations around the world recognise that – but our own country doesn’t. 

It opens up the way for the Truth about this country to be told. Very few Australians know the real history of this country, and I think it opens up the opportunity to tell the Truth, to put a different viewpoint on Aboriginal history. Most people only hear the bad things about Aboriginal history; the never see the good side. 

A lot of Australians travel overseas and are fascinated by the old castles of Europe, and the rich history of the Egyptian pyramids – and they fly over the oldest culture in the world here to get to it. 

We don’t appreciate our own country, and the rich heritage and Indigenous culture that we’ve got. 

A No vote means nothing changes while nothing changes. Shut the door. Close it down. 

A Yes vote opens the door for conversation, and opens the door for awareness. It opens the door for more understanding, and therefore treaties – and it will certainly open the door for Truth. 

And that’s what the Uluru Statement From The Heart is asking: Voice, Treaty, Truth. 

That’s what it means to me.

We haven’t got a Treaty. The Truth hasn’t been told. And there is no direct Voice to the government.  

Voice, Truth, and once that’s known, that can open the way up for Treaty. 

It’s already happening now. It’s happening in Victoria; Victoria are doing it. They have any Aboriginal Voice down there, negotiating Truth-telling and Treaty for a couple of years. If it works there, it can work anywhere.

My fears are that a No vote will highlight the bigotry, the racism, and the ignorance that is in Australia, and the unwillingness to change and to understand history. 

To understand the present, we need to understand the past. We’re a country that’s made up of Indigenous people, refugees, migrants, descendants of convicts. One in four people have got parents born overseas. The fact remains that we’re still one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and we’re still not recognising Indigenous people. 

Open up the conversation! No means nothing. 

Yes means the doors are open. 

This article is a transcription of an interview by Tom Plevey with Anaiwan elder Steve Widders.