Emma Garlett: Both sides of Voice debate agree on constitutional recognition

Emma Garlett: Both sides of Voice debate agree on constitutional recognition

As the referendum approaches, we are starting to get some clarity on what the Vote to Parliament is and how we should vote.

In its simplest form, the Voice to Parliament would see a body enshrined in the Constitution that would allow First Nations people to advise Parliament on policies that affect them.

Whenever progress is made, or change is proposed, there are inevitably opposing sides to the argument.

And yesterday we heard that part of the No campaign will be to put forward what they believe is a better alternative method or proposal.

Despite the division in the Yes or No vote that we see, everyone deserves their voice to be heard and listened to, despite their different views.

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This is a sign of a functioning democracy in action. And seeing different views will allow you to make an informed decision about how you will personally vote in the referendum.

I would urge readers to check their facts.

It only takes one person or one story to create a whispering game that leads to gossip that is misleading and uninformed.

Voting yes would mean including First Nations people in decisions that disproportionately affect them by enshrining a Vote to Parliament.

Do I believe that this kind of body would have been very useful when it came to the Northern Territory intervention in 2007? Absolutely. And if we had a Vote to Parliament, would the decisions and outcome have been different? Absolutely.

Additionally, most First Nations people support the Vote. A recent study by global market research firm IPSOS revealed that 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support the Vote.

The No side of the argument includes others who want no change to the status quo, and some who would rather see a treaty. One high-profile No committee, including Country Liberal Party senator for the NT Jacinta Price, former Labor president Warren Mundine and former Labor minister and charities and not-for-profits commissioner Gary Johns will campaign against the creation of a vote but in support of constitutional recognition of First Nations people.

Other No campaigners, including those at Perth’s Invasion Day rally, are calling for a treaty instead of a Vote. It is important to understand that the Uluru Declaration from the Heart includes a treaty. Voice, Treaty and Truth. In that order.

There are many ways a nation can enter into agreements and consult its First Nations people. We have seen how it is done differently in Canada and New Zealand than what is presented in Australia. Those nations had a treaty with their First Nations groups. But it is important to recognize that copying and pasting other countries’ models may not be the best way forward for Australia.

Another key aspect we need to understand is: how many times are treaties broken and agreements made not implemented? So, those calling for a stand-alone treaty should understand that just because countries have treaties, that doesn’t mean they will work as they hope.

It is very difficult to get the federal government to support and agree on matters of indigenous affairs.

For us to come this far is an achievement in itself.

One thing that both the Yes and No sides agree on is constitutional recognition of First Nations people.

In the words of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese: “This is a wonderful country, Australia.

We would be even better if we recognized First Nations people in our Constitution.”

We operate within the confines of our Westminster system of government, inherited from the English.

Trying to make that system inclusive, with all the history and baggage it brings, is a tall order.

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