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A statement from the Board of Directors, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation

At its heart, the upcoming referendum asks a very simple question: Should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to be consulted on matters that affect them?

To that, we say in Wadawurrung, a resounding yee-yee (yi-yi) - YES.

While the political debate around the Voice has been divisive, fear-based and damaging to First Peoples, the Voice itself is not a divisive issue. In fact, far from it.

The Voice is an opportunity to unite. To recognise the past while finding a positive and meaningful way to move forward – together. To unite with renewed respect and hope and a determined effort to forge a new path for this beautiful land we all call home.

Currently, Australia is one of the few first-world nations with a colonial history that doesn’t recognise its First Peoples in its Constitution. Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America all have constitutional recognition.

The issues facing Australia’s First Nations people are complex and diverse.

The best people to be architects of lasting and meaningful solutions for First Nations People are First Nations People – empowered and supported by Government, with the backing and endorsement of the Australian public.

Better solutions always arise when people are involved in their own decision making.

Australia’s First Peoples are the world’s oldest living continuous culture, there is much that can be learnt from listening to the wisdom of our Elders and our People, and allowing us to inform and participate in matters of significance.

While there are First Nations politicians in Federal Parliament, their role is to represent their constituents and political party, not to focus on First Nations issues.

The make up of parliaments changes each election. Right now, there are 11 First Nations politicians at a Federal level. In future parliaments, there may be none.

A Voice to Parliament will provide a centralised point for consultation, a group of First Nations people with broad lived-experience and direct community connection giving advice to Government. An advisory group free from political interference and not subject to changes in government, ministers or political priorities of the day.

We need a non-partisan body of elected community leaders, with continuity of decision making and long-term solutions with their communities in mind.

People in our broader community are looking to Wadawurrung to provide guidance on this issue and we feel it’s important that we show leadership and strength in this.

Like any group of people, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners have differing opinions on many issues.

The Voice to Parliament is no different, and we acknowledge even within our own Membership, there are differing opinions on this matter.

However, there was a clear majority of our Membership who not only support this referendum, but also support Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation taking a leading role in this debate.

We have voted as a mob, and we support the Voice to Parliament and urge others to vote YES in the upcoming referendum.

We see this commitment as an important and vital step in recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and ensures that our voices will be heard, regardless of which political party is in power.

We respect diverse opinions, but we ask that debate is done in a respectful and mindful manner, acknowledging the hurt and trauma that exists for many First People.

Amid much disinformation, confusion and diversionary tactics, let us be clear and speak in one, unified voice.

We are asking the Australian community to vote YES in the upcoming referendum.

We support the referendum and ask that all Australians do too.

Koling wada-ngal – Let’s walk together

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