Later this year each of us will be asked to vote in a referendum on whether to amend the constitution to include a mechanism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a Voice to Parliament.
The right to have a say on matters affecting us resonates with union members, especially where that right to genuine consultation has been frustrated by management, or governmental, actions.
A special webinar for CPSU members will cover
- Key elements of the constitution and the referendum process
- Why this change to our constitution is simple, fair and practical
- How this constitutional recognition will mean fewer wasted resources, less party politics and real results.
CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly will be joined by Lara Watson, Indigenous Officer at Australian Council of Trade Unions, and Jo Kerr, Section Secretary for Indigenous People's Organisations of the CPSU and Indigenous Committee Chair for the ACTU.
The origins of this referendum are in the decades-long push for genuine constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Research shows most Australians support constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament, and more than 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also support it. Included in that 80% are our CPSU members.
We have joined the union-wide “Union for Yes” campaign with the support of the CPSU's National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Caucus and our Governing Council, the 48 nationally elected leaders from our workplaces.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are asking us to support a modest change that will make a practical difference so we can move forward together.
Constitutional recognition in the form of a Voice will mean fewer wasted resources, less party politics and real results. This is an opportunity for all Australians to come together and contribute to building a stronger, fairer nation.
In 2015, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, appointed a Referendum Council to advise on progress toward a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution. Between December 2016 and May 2017 there were 13 regional dialogues (or meetings) with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to discuss, understand and prioritise options for recognition – including on how to formally ‘recognise’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.
After those meetings, in May 2017, there was a meeting held at Uluru, where delegates came together from all around Australia - that’s when the The Uluru Statement from the Heart was signed. The Voice to Parliament is the first action from that Statement. It is a beautiful piece of heartfelt prose and I encourage you to read the Uluru Statement from the Heart here.
Our National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Caucus previously endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart and this year reinforced their commitment by supporting a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Here are some reasons our members who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander want their union to support a Voice to Parliament:
- If an Aboriginal voice is in the constitution, then no future government can remove it without going back to the people of Australia.
- Showing support for our internal and external Australian First Nation communities is important to me, it shows unity and compassion for First Nation sovereignty. It makes me proud that my union is an active participant in the Voice campaign.
- The Uluru Statement calls for a First Nations Voice. This was the self-determined aspirations of First Nations leaders who participated in the largest consultation with mob in Australia’s history. The Voice will give Aboriginal peoples a greater say in the matters affecting our communities.
- It will be additional support for the Aboriginal community in supporting the campaign as well as an excellent collaboration to strengthen relationships between everyone.