On Saturday 14 October 2023, Australia voted against altering the Constitution to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.
We recognise the strength and ongoing resilience of all First Nations communities, and the diversity of viewpoints held within these communities regarding a Voice to Parliament. We also acknowledge that this process has been painful and traumatising for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, irrespective of the result.
While we are disappointed in the referendum’s result, we remain committed to working towards the vision outlined in the Uluru Statement of the Heart, of an Australia that meaningfully addresses the racism, discrimination and injustices experienced by the First Peoples of this country.
This includes supporting and participating in treaty negotiations, truth-telling processes, implementation of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and adequate funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to meet the service and support needs of their communities, as outlined in our original statement on the Voice to Parliament.
As the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is committed to listening, learning and being authentic allies, now and always. We will always stand in solidarity with First Nations communities and support all efforts towards justice and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Safe and Equal’s original statement on the Voice to Parliament:
We respect and honour First Nations people’s rights to self-determination, cultural safety and choice, and we value the broad and diverse perspectives held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Such fundamental principles shape and will continue to guide Safe and Equal’s work, and our solidarity with First Nations people.
Safe and Equal supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament through the lens of self-determination. We stand in solidarity and seek to be authentic allies to First Nations peoples, including towards the next steps of the vision around truth and treaty.
Everything that happens in this country happens on unceded Aboriginal land. This includes the work we do across the community to prevent and respond to family and gender-based violence.
This violence is perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – especially women and children – at devastating and disproportionate rates.
Family violence is not, and has never been, a part of Aboriginal culture. Ending this violence requires us, as a society, to address the historic and ongoing impacts of colonisation, genocide, systemic violence, racism, family separation and intergenerational trauma.
As the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is committed to walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and communities, and listening to what Aboriginal people say is needed to address inequality and injustice.
It is clear that we need to take dedicated, meaningful action. The Uluru Statement from the Heart provides one way forward, and voice is one element of this. We support an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, alongside other meaningful action including treaty negotiations, truth-telling processes, implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and funding Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations adequately to meet the service and support needs of their communities.
We acknowledge the range of viewpoints held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the referendum, and we respect this diversity. We also acknowledge the flaws in a process that asks an entire population to vote on an issue that distinctly impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in a social and political context that is already deeply unjust.
The referendum is about more than just the Voice to Parliament. However complicated, this process presents an opportunity to acknowledge and address this country’s racist and colonial past and present, in order to transform our future.
Now and at all times, Safe and Equal stands strongly opposed to racism, denial of history and wilful blindness to ongoing inequality and injustice. No matter the outcome of this referendum, we will continue to listen to, stand with and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts towards justice, equality and control of their own lives and futures.