This year, Australians will vote on a change to the Australian Constitution which will enshrine a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The referendum is, fundamentally, a simple question: should Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples get a say on the laws that impact them. Not a veto, not a vote, just the chance to have a say: that’s all it is.
Last Thursday, ETU Acting Secretary Michael Wright attended the campaign launch for the Voice from the Heart. The event brought together unions and community groups to collaborate on designing a winning campaign.
Our Union proudly says YES to the Voice referendum. The ETU was founded on principles of basic fairness, and that’s all this referendum is about: treating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a basic level of respect.
Last week also saw the launch of the ‘Unions for Yes’ Voice to Parliament campaign. Speakers included ETU member and ACTU Indigenous Officer Lara Watson, who spoke passionately about how, to this day, some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers don’t have access to basic conditions like work health & safety and superannuation. A Voice to Parliament would shine a spotlight on these abuses.
CPSU – Community and Public Sector Union activist and Aboriginal woman, Jo Kerr, explains what the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament will mean, and why you should get behind it here.
After over 65,000 years of continuous culture, it’s time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are recognised in our 122-year-old Constitution. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want recognition in a practical form of a say on issues and policies that impact their lives.
The union movement has a long history of solidarity with and fighting for the rights and wages of First Nations workers. Key historical moments include:
- the Gurindji strike/Wave Hill walk-off when workers protested Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers were receiving only a third of the wage that the other workers were receiving, fighting for the return of millions of dollars of wages stolen from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers by Australian governments up until the 1970s – a fight that continues today.
- More recently, securing the abolition of the Community Development Program (CDP) in 2021, under which thousands of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were forced to undertake an endless cycle of Work for the Dole activities to receive an unemployment payment and were subject to a harsh and coercive penalty scheme.
Successive Australian Governments have made decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples without consulting these communities. A Voice to Parliament would mean that those communities would at least get a say.
As unionists, we know that having a voice is so important, so we’re proud to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and vote yes.
It’s an important change that will make Australia fairer and better.
Unfortunately there is already a lot of bullshit going. So let’s be clear what you’re NOT voting on:
- The Voice is not a “Third Chamber” of Parliament
- The Voice would not have a veto
- The Voice would not be a new layer of Government.
The Voice is a way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say on the laws that affect them – that’s it. It’s the first step on the path to a better country for all of us.
Pictured from left: CEPU SA Organiser Jason Lailey, ETU Acting National Secretary Michael Wright and CEPU SA State Secretary John Adley.