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We can do better by listening

In the upcoming referendum, Australians can say Yes to recognising this land’s first peoples in the Constitution and listening through a Voice, writes SA Senator Penny Wong.

Sep 22, 2023, updated Sep 22, 2023

When I’m asked about the upcoming referendum, my answer starts with one word – listening.

We all know Australia is one of the best countries in the world.

But we also know many Indigenous people are being left behind.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face a life expectancy eight years less than non-Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous babies are almost twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

We can do better.

We can do better by listening.

In the upcoming referendum, Australians can say Yes to recognising this land’s first peoples in the Constitution and listening through a Voice.

When governments listen to people about issues that affect them, they make better decisions, get better results and deliver better value for money.

Last weekend across the country, tens of thousands of people rallied in support of the Voice, and the positive change it will bring.

At Tarntanyangga, in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, I joined South Australians who gathered in support of a yes vote.

We were there because we want to listen.

We want to listen to the voices of this generation and the next.

And we were there because we want better outcomes.

For many years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have advocated for constitutional recognition through a Voice.

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A proposal thousands of elders and community leaders all over the country have worked on for over a decade.

On October 14 we will finally have the chance to respond to this request.

The Voice will be a committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country.

It will offer advice to help governments address the challenges facing Indigenous people in areas such as health, education, employment and housing.

A no vote closes the door on the next generation – ensuring a continuing divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Last weekend at the rally in Adelaide Paul Kelly performed his song “If Not Now”.

It has a powerful chorus, that has stuck with me because it reflects the significance of this moment.

“We may never get another chance like this again.”

“If not now, then when?”

“If not us, then who?”

On October 14, I urge all Australians to make history and vote yes for a better future.

SA Labor Senator Penny Wong is Foreign Affairs Minister

Topics: The Voice
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