Originally published in Il Globo, the Pyranees and Ararat Advocate, and the Gippsland Times & Maffra Spectator on October 13 2023

This Saturday, Australia has the opportunity to take a practical step towards better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Voice to Parliament is about committing the Australian Government – now and in the future – to listening to First Nations people on the issues that impact them.

The Voice will be an advisory committee of Indigenous people from across Australia that gives advice to politicians on how to improve the lives of Indigenous people.

This is a simple idea, and it is a modest ask from First Nations people. This idea was not produced by political parties or policy think tanks – it has come directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Currently, our Constitution does not recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians as the first peoples of this land – ignoring more than 60,000 years of continuous connection. We have the chance to right this wrong, and do so in a practical way that can actually make a meaningful difference to the lives Indigenous Australians.

The Voice will make a practical difference because when governments listen to people about issues that affect them, they make better decisions, deliver better results and get better value for money.

It is important to note that the Voice will not run government programs or determine policy. The Australian Parliament – elected by all Australians – will still vote on legislation and make decisions as it always has done. But if we vote Yes, the Voice will be there to provide the government of the day with advice on how decisions will impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This is important because governments – whether they are Coalition or Labor governments – have failed First Nations people. There is a significant gap between the Indigenous population and their fellow Australians on a range of outcomes.

The most recent data shows that a young Indigenous man is more likely to go to jail than university.

Governments of all political persuasions have tried different solutions and policies, but annual Closing the Gap report shows that we are actually going backwards on our target of reducing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in incarceration, and we are also going backwards on suicide rates.

This is the status quo we are accepting if we say No. I don’t think any Australians want this gap to continue – or get worse – so instead let’s try something different.

Let’s recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution and give them the opportunity to advise governments on issues that impact them.

Let’s say Yes on Saturday.