24 January 2023

You might have seen reports that radicals within the Aboriginal community are opposed to the Voice. This is no surprise — a minority group led by Lidia Thorpe walked out of the Statement from the Heart conference when they realised the overwhelming majority of delegates supported Voice before Treaty, and while she said she won’t campaign against the referendum, she seems to be walking away from that commitment. I’m sympathetic to the splinter group’s view (they argue that including Indigenous people within the Constitution without a treaty will undermine their sovereignty) but it is too theoretical — in reality, sovereignty comes from power, not words on a page, and leveraging the existing legal structures to build power is the better way to achieve a treaty. I think Eddie Synot [$] is right when he says, “Having a permanent, constitutionally protected and mandated representative body that enables Indigenous people to mobilise around will have a massive impact in pushing for these kinds of issues to be dealt with and dealt with respectfully.” As Megan Davis explains, “At an institutional level, Victoria has the most advanced treaty process in Australia and may deliver an alternative Indigenous vision for the nation and the globe. To negotiate a treaty, it had to do what the Uluru statement contemplates and create a political Voice first: this pioneering Voice is known as the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. The assembly advanced its treaty negotiation framework and, on the advice of communities, has now established the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. (Yoo-rrook being a Wamba Wamba / Wemba Wemba word meaning ‘truth’.)” The Uluru vision is that the Voice underpins Treaty and Truth, so it must come first. Does that mean I think the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance should drop their campaign? Not at all — the radical wing pushing for more than just the Voice will ensure that the momentum of the referendum campaign will continue for further change in future. But I will be voting Yes, and I hope you will too.