ECCV is committed to supporting multicultural communities to exercise their democratic rights and make an informed choice at the referendum.

On Saturday, 14 October, Australians will have their say in a historic referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples. If successful, the referendum will enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution that will create a guaranteed pathway for First Nations communities to inform the policies, laws and issues that affect them.

The call for constitutional recognition and a First Nations Voice to Parliament is not new. These demands have been around for close to a century, reiterated by generation after generation of First Nations leaders and advocates.

This referendum is grounded in the principle of self-determination, of finally listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about what they need to close the gap, improve their livelihoods and secure brighter futures. Because no one knows more about that than First Nations peoples themselves.

What sets the referendum apart from prior efforts is that the Voice will be in the Constitution, meaning First Nations people will have a say on their affairs regardless of the Parliament of the day.

A First Nations Voice will not have the power to make or change laws. The Voice is an advisory body that can make recommendations to Parliament, but at the end of the day, the power to enact recommendations or change policies and laws still lies with Parliament.

The referendum is about addressing the structural discrimination and disadvantage First Nations people face. Structural inequality is familiar to many people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

Our struggles are similar and often intersecting, although of course, not identical. What multicultural communities and First Nations communities do share, however, are common goals: to lead long, healthy lives, to take control of our destinies, and to strengthen our communities so they can prosper for generations to come.

In the words of Bangerang, Taungurung and Wiradjuri Elder and Aboriginal Advancement League CEO Aunty Esme Bamblett, “We need allies to get this over the line. We didn’t do it on our own in the 1967 referendum and we can’t do it on our own in 2023.”

This referendum, which takes its inspiration from the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, is an invitation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country to walk with them on the path to truth, reconciliation and justice.

That’s why voting ‘Yes’ on 14 October is a positive step forward for all Australians. By lifting up First Peoples, we are lifting up all Australians.

ECCV is proud to support constitutional recognition and a First Nations Voice. Our team has been working hard over the past few months to engage and inform multicultural communities across the state about the importance of the referendum.

Since the launch of our Victorian Multicultural Voices for ‘Yes’ campaign in August at Parliament House, which was attended by more than 80 community leaders and MPs, we have hosted a series of forums across Melbourne, with each event demonstrating the determination within our migrant and refugee communities to support First Nations justice.

This article was published in the
Spring 2023
edition of Golden Years.