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Uncle Vince Ross adds his voice to the referendum debate

Uncle Vince Ross says he fully endorses the Voice to Parliament.

UNCLE VINCE ROSS, the Australia Territory’s most recent Order of the Founder recipient, gives his thoughts on the Voice to Parliament referendum


It’s amazing what people don’t appear to understand about the true history of this country we call Australia. Through this idea of the Voice to Parliament, I hope we will all start to understand this history and how it confirms the need for an official First Nations voice to be heard in government and beyond.

I believe that the Voice to Parliament will amplify the First Nations’ perspective a lot better than it’s ever been in the past and even at present.

So, whatever we can do to make that voice louder, stronger, and valued within government and the wider community is what’s really needed for us as a nation.

Sad to say, one of the reasons for this need for the Voice is that we have people who seem to complicate the telling of our true history. It is this attitude during the past, and even now, that has been the very thing that has dampened any thought of Aboriginal people striving to be self-determining and self-managing.

The only way to correct this situation is through legal and government processes of the day.

Surely, we would want to find ways to build this country together rather than pull it down and pull people apart. However, regretfully, it is pulling us apart, which has been happening for many years in Australia.

So, a question constantly before us all is, what is our response to find an effective way for the First Nations people to have a Voice and a Treaty that will provide the right pathway for the mob?

A way has been found, and failing to secure a Voice and a Treaty will mean Australia continues to have a system that keeps supplying Band-aids to Aboriginal communities – ineffective solutions for the needs and issues.

I fail to get my mind around why people struggle with what, to me, is a simple solution to this issue. We need this so we, as the human race in Australia, can move forward positively.

Meaningful conversations

One of the important methods to help us find solutions around issues regarding the Voice and Treaty is the need for meaningful conversations.

We First Nations people know how yarning has helped us to listen well to each other for thousands of years and then decide from a much more informed knowledge base. May we as a nation get involved in deep and effective yarning.

Uncle Vince Ross receives his Order of the Founder in 2020.

As individuals, what role can each of us play in encouraging the ‘voice’ of all Aboriginal people to be heard and acted on so that First Nations people and this nation can positively move forward together?

We have seen that the action of having a referendum regarding a Voice to Parliament is causing some grief among the wider community, and some are saying this has the potential to split Aboriginal communities. I don’t have that same view because, in the past, we have experienced much change in our mob through a significant shift in the political and community decisions, but we are still trying to work together. I’ve seen development with our people in many areas during those years. I believe, out of this situation, the Voice will allow us further opportunities to address the real issues as we sit together and give enough time to find solutions.

When thinking about the outcome, whether the Voice gets up or not, there needs to be a positive conversation and be culturally sensitive during the process. This nation will continue to struggle unless that positive conversation takes place – respecting each other’s comments and perspectives.

Moving forward together

I’ve said it before and will say it again: this nation will never reach its fullest potential until it faces its true history and decides to move forward together with that knowledge. Yes, the Voice is an important step in our history, but the most important thing is what we do on the journey to that place of allowing the Voice to be strong and proud.

A positive yarning journey is the key where we all feel and believe we have been heard and we’ve heard the other side as well. Already, we are seeing significant changes in community attitudes, and the important thing is for people to get involved and contribute to it.

“I believe that by being at the same table as the decision-makers, we will provide a balance and understanding of what is required for the First Nation peoples.”

An important thing to remember is there will be those who will want to find a better pathway for Indigenous people to travel. A question to be asked is: What part do you contribute that will assist the government in understanding the real issues that impact Aboriginal people?

Looking at our past experiences, we Aboriginal people say there’s been no real action towards rectifying what the needs are within the community and that now the community has this opportunity. We understand what some community members are concerned about – the Voice just becoming another section of the government that becomes paralysed with policies that appear to go around in circles without any real positive outcomes.

I disagree with this view. I believe that by being at the same table as the decision-makers, we will provide a balance and understanding of what is required for the First Nation peoples. As this happens, it will enable all cultures in Australia to have more understanding and collaboration.

Benefit to all

My experience over many years growing up on an Aboriginal reserve and facing all the negative policies was that the gap continued to widen between all the groups, and there has been very little advancement for Aboriginal communities.

The question is asked: Why do you want to have a Voice to Parliament when you already have Aboriginal people within government? While this is a helpful question, it forgets that any member of a party in parliament must abide by the majority decision of that party. And there are big divisions between Liberal, Labor and Greens and all the rest of the parliamentary ‘mob’, but they appear to be more focused on the political arena.

We need a robust Aboriginal voice that bypasses all the politics behind the various policies and considers what the mob are saying, allowing the government to work through First Nations issues.

When we have a Voice and Treaty, I’m confident that only then can we move forward into a positive partnership with the government to change the way of understanding and provide effective programs that work for the Aboriginal communities. And all Australians will experience a benefit.

Attitudes are changing, and the need for people to spend some time yarning so a strong voice can be formed is vital. Yarning will start to open up ways for this nation to recognise its potential when all of us are building together.

Let’s focus on the positives more than the negatives and realise what resources we have to create a new way forward for this country.

Truth is the key

In the Bible, Paul writes about the truth that ‘sets us free’. He is, of course, referring to Jesus as the ‘Truth’, but, as I said near the beginning of this article, Australians must know the truth of our history, then sit together, face the truth and be prepared with that truth to move forward.

So, when this yarning and questioning happens, there is an opportunity to connect in a way that allows each person to express their concerns – allow time – and maybe even let the conversation be put on hold until it feels right to return to further helpful comments.

Aboriginal people are committed to adding positive support to our country and moving our people away from that welfare mentality to a position of self-management and self-control. Please let us help the government make it happen through an official information-sharing process.

The Voice to Parliament is not only something essential in the political arena but also something special for this nation. It will give confidence to First Nations people that their voice is heard and taken seriously and that we have a special place within government as the First Nation people of this country.

Finally, I believe we are in a position where positive change can occur and that positive change rests with all of us as we understand our history. This will help us as a nation to not look back but help us to look forward to what’s possible and what can be achieved.

I fully endorse the Voice to Parliament, and I do that with a strong sense that change is possible for First Nations people as we listen, and when together, we are all willing to advance the cause.

Committed to the struggle.

Vince Ross

Elder Madi-Madi/Wamba-Wamba


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