An exploration of the Voice to Parliament – how we got here, and what we might expect after the referendum
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this article contains references of deceased persons and content which may cause distress.
Thank you for inviting me to speak about an issue that is topical today. And thank you to the audience, both here in person and those listening in, for your interest. I am not the first of my family to stand before the membership of the Royal Society of Tasmania. My two times great grandmother, Fanny Smith, did so in 1899 when she agreed to be recorded speaking and singing in her mother tongue. I think it pleased her that she was of interest to the Royal Society because she was, at the time, considered to be the last living example of her race and, therefore of some considerable scientific interest. Now, here I am. Neither she, nor I could have imagined such a thing! I think she would have been amused. We are now going to have a referendum to decide whether a new section should be added to the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of the country by enabling the Parliament to legislate to establish a body which may give advice to it on matters affecting Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Six years on from the Uluru Statement from the Heart many are wondering what drove those people in the desert, to think that asking the permission of the Australian people, about something so innocuous was a good idea. The proposal could not have any impact on the daily lives of 97% of the population yet they are the ones who will decide if a modest, in fact timid, proposal, which concerns 3% of the population, will be permitted.
Transcript of lecture delivered to the Royal Society of Tasmania, 30 July 2023