tl;dr vote yes
I have been umming and ahhing over the referendum since before the date was set.
When I first started looking into it there was very little information about it (that was easy to find). All I could find initially was the text of the constitution change, i.e.,
Chapter IX-Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
i there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
ii the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
iii the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
My response was both, “sure, okay, sounds good to me”, and also “who is going to be in the body? how would they get there?” etc.
I started to hear more negative information on social media and some of it sounded extreme. One of the popular items being that they’re going to take your land.
I didn’t believe that, but once it gets woven with other “what ifs” and information that sounds plausible; it makes the situation sound so complicated.
The issue of bettering the lives of First Nations peoples, and figuring out how to respect and uphold their history in this changed country, is complicated, but the referendum is not. It’s simple: are we going to recognise First Nations people in the constitution, and allow them to make recommendations to parliament?
The design of the body of The Voice and how it will work is yet to be decided, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The constitution can only be changed by referendum. By deciding the design of The Voice later it can be iterated on by parliament to create a system that works for all Australians and finally benefits the people it speaks for. That sort of detail shouldn’t be written into the constitution, and since these details can be changed through legislation, outlining it now muddies the question. Which would be similar to what happened in the referendum on making Australia a republic: the vote ended up being (at least in the minds of voters, if not in actual text) a yes or no to the type of republic that Australia would be, rather than whether it should be one or not.
I appreciated this quote I heard on the ABC,
The existence of a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples does not negate anyone else’s ability to be heard as well.Professor Anne Twomey (Constitutional Lawyer)
Understanding The Voice from a human rights perspective is much more detailed, and something that I haven’t read over completely yet, but looks really helpful. Among other things, it gives a broader perspective on what the UN has already advised for First Nation peoples and how various countries have approached that.
A wonderful woman said to me, “The Voice doesn’t promise to be the solution. It’s the first step in a long process… No says we’re not prepared to try.”
I know people have voted No and would say they are willing to try, but if not now, when? If not this way, how?
I actually think this is a really good proposal. It commits the nation to listen. I pray that we will.