Why I’m voting yes

By Greg Spearritt

One view expressed against enshrining a Voice to Parliament in our Constitution is that it will be divisive, and our society would be much better off – more cohesive, that is – by not recognising distinct groups but rather seeing ourselves all as ‘Australians’.

I have a friend of Greek extraction. He was born in Australia and identifies both as ‘Australian’ and Greek; he visits Greece occasionally, is involved in the Greek Club in Brisbane and to an extent follows some of the Greek customs (food, Easter etc). Should he not do that? Can’t we sustain different identities and still all be Australian? Almost 30% of Australians were born overseas, according to the latest census. Should that third of Aussies be expected to drop all their traditions and customs and adopt the nuclear-family-excessive-consumption-monolingualism that characterises ‘Australian’ traditional values?

To note, however, my friend’s immediate ancestors were not dispossessed of their land and customs like First Nations people were, and are accepted nowadays as part of mainstream ‘white’ society with little evident racism. Greeks therefore don’t need a Voice to Parliament.

It’s a very different story for Aboriginal people whose level of disadvantage on their own continent is a disgrace. We certainly should try to help all who are in need, regardless of creed or colour. Indigenous disadvantage, however, stems from the very issue of their identity, from the culture (the language, customs, beliefs, relationships and more) that Europeans have attempted so persistently to obliterate.

Voting yes, in my view, does not ‘divide’ us. Aboriginal Australians, ever generous in my experience, have much to share with us, not least the richness of their time-honoured heritage and perhaps even a corrective to our ‘nuclear-family-excessive-consumption-monolingualism’ – but we can’t hope to appreciate it until historical and present injustice is addressed. Enshrining a Voice is a step towards making us all, as Australians, more whole, indeed, more cohesive.

Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.

Image: Wikipedia