Voice to Parliament referendum triggers different views among Indigenous Australians – ABC News

Voice to Parliament referendum triggers different views among Indigenous Australians - ABC News

In Sydney’s western suburbs, Uncle Wes Marne’s weathered hands are making jewellery out of beads coloured in the red, yellow and black of the Aboriginal flag.

At 100 years of age, the Bigambul elder — who lives in Mt Druitt — has seen a lifetime of change for his people, some of it positive, but much of it failing to bridge the gap.

Now — after the prime minister announced the proposed wording for a referendum on a Voice to Parliament — Uncle Wes is considering what he’d like to see in the future.

“If we do have a Voice in Parliament, it’s got to be the right people, grassroots people,” he said.

“I’m not asking for university graduates or anything like that, unless they are grassroots people.

“It’s got to be people who know what we need and know what we should have.”

An old man wearing a hat is bent over a tray of beads and echidna spikes
Uncle Wes Marne says “grassroots people” would need to lead a Voice to Parliament.(ABC News: Maryanne Taouk)

Once a week, Uncle Wes joins an elders-in-residence program at the Blacktown Arts Centre, where attendees share stories, create art and make connections over morning tea.

At the same gathering, Uncle Greg Simms — an elder of the Gundungurra people of the Blue Mountains and the Gadigal tribe of the Dharug Nation — also has a view on the Voice.

“I feel good about it,” he said. “The thing is, they should have done this years ago, because there’s so much they would have learned from Aboriginal people.”

An older man wearing a colourful jumper and a brown hat sits at a table.
Uncle Greg Simms believes a Voice to Parliament should have been established “years ago”.(ABC News: Maryanne Taouk)

At the other end of the age spectrum, Tully O’Neil believes a Voice to Parliament “would be a massive step forward for mob”.

The young Trawlwoolway man is training to become a ranger on Tebrakunna country in Tasmania.

“It’s taken a lot of heartache and a lot of struggle,” he said.

“And I think to have it there for younger generations to come, it’s just going to be massive.”

However, Mr O’Neil said, it was essential that the Voice was both powerful and reflective of all First Nations people, including younger ones like himself.

“I think consulting the community, as a whole, rather than some selected few, would make it a lot more powerful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders around Australia,” he said.

“I think having a bit more sovereignty, and anything that we come up with would be more ideal — give a bit more power back to the people.”

A young man wearing a ranger uniform stands in front of a tree
Tasmanian Tully O’Neil hopes the Voice will deliver more power to Aboriginal people.(ABC News: Bec Pridham)

He said it was important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to “stay true to our ways”.

“We just need to stay united and stay strong and be the warriors that we are.”

Thousands of kilometres to the north, on Larrakia land in Darwin, Helen Secretary is adamant a Voice to Parliament is the wrong approach.

“I don’t agree on the Voice. I don’t agree on the wording,” she said.

Ms Secretary chairs the Gwalwa Daraniki Association, which administers the communities of Kulaluk and Minmarama in Darwin.

She said her people had been neglected by governments for decades, and doubted a Voice would improve things.

A portrait photo of an Aboriginal woman wearing a black t-shirt
Helen Secretary is not going to support the Voice to Parliament.(ABC News: Michael Donnelly)

“We have people [who,] in parliament, [who] have no idea on how community people live in their communities, because no one has come and spoken on ground to the people to ask what Indigenous people want,” she said.

“This Voice is going to divide the Australian people, and I do not support it.”

However, in Central Australia, Arrernte elder William Tilmouth has a very different perspective.

“I think it’s high time that the voice of our people is to be recognised,” the chairman of First Nations organisation Children’s Ground said.

“It’s taken a lot of voices from people in the past to get us here.

“And I’m really elated that we finally got to a point where we will be recognised.”

Mr Tilmouth said he respected the right of people to vote against the Voice, but warned that if the referendum was unsuccessful, it will have a lasting impact.

William Tilmouth
William Tilmouth is concerned about the consequences if the Voice doesn’t succeed.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

“If the vote turns out to be ‘No’, then we are back another 100 years of trying to get back to where we are today,” he said.

“And I think it would be a just a waste of effort and time for people to have to struggle for another ‘X amount’ of years, just to have their voices heard.

“I think it’s opportunity now and we need to take that.”

The referendum is expected to be held later this year.

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Emotional Albanese issues plea for Australians to support Indigenous Voice referendum.

Source: abc.net.au

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