If you don’t know, find out

Multicultural Matters: Education Quarterly, Issue 6 2023

As teachers, we strive to inspire students to be informed and caring global citizens. As unionists, we undertake actions that challenge inequities and fight for social justice that benefits all in our communities, not just our own members.  

Members are urged to inform themselves of the facts about the proposed referendum. Seek out information about the concept of a Voice to Parliament, the history of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (printed on our centre pages), and why all Australians are being asked to support it.  

Conversations can sometimes be awkward or confronting, but if we ensure that we allow a safe space for people to reflect, ask questions and challenge misinformation and disinformation, we can maintain positive debate and respectful conversations. True democracies allow for differences of opinions. It is disingenuous, however, to advise those who don’t know to vote “no”. Just as we teach our students every day, if you don’t know, find out. 

You can start with the pages of this journal, but you might also like to check out: 

Education is paramount to eradicating racism and is vital to preserving democratic principles. Engage in the referendum process and accept the generous invitation to all Australians from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to walk together into a better future. Enshrining a Voice is the first step, it is that simple. 

Opportunity to address racism and discrimination 

Australian Human Rights Commission Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan’s opinion piece in The Guardian, “The voice to parliament will lead to less inequality. That’s not racist”, noted “creating a Voice to Parliament is not racist nor inequitable” to others. “On the contrary, it presents an opportunity to address and overcome racism and discrimination. Denying Indigenous Australians a voice in decisions that affect them will only serve to maintain racial inequality and continue the marginalisation and disempowerment.” He emphasised that “equality does not mean everyone is treated the same. To address disadvantage, unique assistance and representation is sometimes required. That is why the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples bestows unique rights to original inhabitants of colonised countries.” These include “self-determination, creating representative structures, participating in decisions that specifically affect them, and being free from discrimination”. 

Voting “yes” is consistent with International Law, as identified by Commissioner Tan and in the 2017 UN Committee report on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

According to legal advice by federal Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue, enshrining a Voice to Parliament is legally sound and it “would not pose any threat” to our system of government. In fact, it would “enhance” our system as it “does not alter the powers of Parliament or government in any way”. The solicitor-general explained that the Voice would help overcome “barriers that have historically impeded effective participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in political discussions and decisions that affect them”. (theconversation.com, 21 April) In short, it would improve our democracy by ensuring Indigenous people have a mechanism for their voices to be heard.