04 Jun 2023
Voice to Parliament Referendum
A formal organisational position on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament was approved by the SSI Board. In the lead up to the referendum, SSI undertook internal and external education and awareness raising efforts, including joining sector coalitions and running community information sessions. While we are disappointed by the results of the referendum, SSI remains committed to reconciliation and to working with First Nations peoples to realise ‘Makarrata’ – a Yolngu word meaning the coming together after a struggle.
SSI fully supports the recommendations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament and enshrining the proposed wording for this in Australia’s constitution.
At its core, the Uluru Statement from the Heart seeks the achievement of ‘Makarrata’ – the coming together after a struggle. We want to join in on the vision, to strive to realise ‘Makarrata’ – to birth a new season of kinship, where all people and cultures acknowledge our past, see each other and walk together in the spirit of strength and unity to achieve Voice, Treaty and Truth.
Through the Statement from the Heart, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have asked to be recognised in Australia’s Constitution through a Voice to Parliament so they can have a say on policies and laws that affect their lives and communities. The upcoming referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make this a reality.
A key role of organisations working in the multicultural space, like Settlement Services International, is to welcome people from all over the world to our country. We welcome them to a place where First Nations people have had a continuous connection to the land for more than 60,000 years, contributing culture, wisdom and care for the land that has not always been acknowledged, respected or considered, including in Australia’s 122-year-old Constitution.
As an organisation, SSI supports the Yes vote for the Voice referendum. We are a signatory to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and made a submission to the Voice to Parliament co-design process supporting that a First Nations Voices to Parliament be enshrined in the constitution. SSI’s role in the Voice campaign is to assist employees, clients and multicultural communities in accessing accurate information to support their decision making when it comes to vote in the Voice referendum.
The upcoming referendum is an opportunity for multicultural community service organisations to step up to support communities whose experiences can be similar to those of the migrants and refugees we support. Culturally and linguistically diverse communities have an important role to play in supporting this proposal and elevating understanding of the challenges facing community members whose voices are often invisible to mainstream Australia.
We acknowledge that enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution is not the only thing that needs to be done to promote reconciliation, healing and unity, but it’s an important practical step. SSI supports progressing Treaty and Truth alongside the Voice, as part of full implementation of the Uluru Statement.
The process after the vote will be almost as important as the vote itself. Any national process that results from the Voice referendum should be representative, consultative and transparent. It should provide a voice to all within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including those who have been previously unheard and those who are not established leadership figures.
SSI acknowledges that there will be a diversity of views among the Australian community about the Voice referendum. Different views should be respected in this debate, in a spirit of listening and understanding.
SSI is on a reconciliation journey through which we are committed to embedding a safe environment that increases and promotes the employment, participation, voice, dialogue, and discussion with people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This intent is embodied in our Reconciliation Action Plan, which was launched in February 2022.