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“In plain sight”: ‘Yes’ campaigners reject Voice scare campaign

Dechlan Brennan -

A hearing at the Australian National University has heard from proponents of the Yes vote for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, who have hit back at critics, saying they are "creating diversions and distractions."

The 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice: A Dialogue for Students' saw Yes23's director from the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Dean Parkin, appear alongside Professor Megan Davis; Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and Co-Chair Uluru Statement from the Heart, Jana Stewart; Labor Senator for Victoria, Andrew Bragg; Liberal Senator for NSW and Sally Scales; Partnership Manager, Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The event, which was attended by local students and members of the public, included dialogue with a panel, moderated by Professor Mark Kenny and closed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.

Mr Parkin told the crowd a Treaty would be something that was focussed on in the near term.

"It's important to understand that treaty processes, as the leader of the opposition well understands, are decades-long processes and take a long time to finalise," he said.

"We've got urgent issues facing Indigenous people now that can only be fixed through a Voice."

He previously told Guardian Australia in a statement that: "The only person talking about treaty right now is Peter Dutton."

Mr Parkin told Prof Kenny he viewed the discourse around the Voice as two separate conversations.

Professor Mark Kenny (left) lead the dialogue which included panelists Sally Scales (centre) and Senator Jana Stewart (right). (Image: supplied, Australian National University)

"I've said this for a while now, there's two distinct conversations happening," he said.

"That place up on the hill ... that is one type of conversation that has been around, and it has been very much driven by the media and politicians going at this with a lot of really old-school political tactics ... (distracting) Australians from what's actually at stake here.

"But the conversation at the community level is just completely different ... they're not members of a political party, they're just Australians getting behind this 'yes' vote."

Senator Stewart, a Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba and the first Aboriginal Labor Senator for Victoria, labelled supposed division amongst Indigenous Australians over the Voice as a "misnomer," arguing that close to 84 per cent of the Indigenous community are in favour of it.

She argued that it was illogical for everyone to agree, just because they all shared the same identity.

"Not even everybody in the Liberal Party agrees about what we should do," she said

"But somehow, First Nations communities are supposed to be homogeneous, and all agree. We are just like every other community, there will be people who disagree with everything."

Pitjantjatjara woman Ms Scales, from Pipalyatjara in the far west of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in regional South Australia, was quick to highlight that the process for the Voice had been extensive, arguing the time for action was now.

Professor Mark Kenny alongside panelists Sally Scales, Senator Jana Stewart, Professor Megan Davis, Senator Andrew Bragg, and Dean Parkin. (Image: supplied, Australian National University)

"It's taken six years to get here," Ms Scales said.

"Six years of turning every 'no' or a 'maybe' into 'okay, let's do it.' We need a seat at the table because our communities are suffering."

Cobble Cobble Woman Prof. Davis, who was the first person to read out the Uluru Statement of the Heart in 2017, said the process was "exhaustive," rejecting claims that it was an elite body.

"It was a really carefully crafted process and it needed to be one that engaged people who don't normally have a Voice," she said.

"What we wanted was local communities to choose leaders in their region. Those leaders are not ones well known by journalists or by media. They're the ones that don't get to talk they don't have the fancy passes to fly to Canberra every sitting week to Lobby politicians.

"They're just ordinary mob in communities who have devoted their lives to the service of their communities and that's what's so critical about the work that we did."

She previously had told Guardian Australia claims the body was lacking information were false, saying the information was "in plain sight."

"Unless the LNP haven't been paying attention, the Uluru Statement from the Heart has been around since May 2017," she said.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Hon Linda Burney also spoke at the dialogue. (Image: supplied, Australian National University)

"They cannot manufacture discord here when the information has been on the public record for over half a decade."

Earlier on Wednesday, Prof. Davis, told ABC radio that whilst everyone has complaints about the government not listening to them, it is a fact when it comes to First Nations people.

"Yes, most Australians complain about politics," she said.

"But this is a much more serious discussion about the structural disadvantage our people suffer, because governments don't listen to us."

"They do not listen to First Nations people, which is why the Voice is regarded as a significant reform, because it mandates the State to listen."

Minister Burney closed the 90-minute proceedings by telling the crowd that she was "filled with hope."

"This referendum is about a coming together of our stories, a coming together of Australians, old and new, young and old," she said.

"To the young people ... you are our future and strongest allies…I urge you to campaign for the future ... the referendum campaign has begun."

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