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Multicultural support offers hope for a Yes outcome on October 14

Professor Andrew Gunstone -

In the many dozens of events I have spoken at over this long referendum campaign, it has been the events run by multicultural Australia that have given me the most hope that Australia will vote Yes on October 14.

From outer metropolitan suburbs to regional and rural Australia, multicultural communities have turned out in significant numbers to learn more about the importance of a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

There has long been strong support from multicultural Australia for First Nations peoples, despite attempts over the years by conservative politicians and commentators to drive wedges between the communities.

In 1997, then Prime Minister John Howard attempted to justify his appalling refusal to apologise to the Stolen Generations by arguing that multicultural Australia should not apologise as they did not cause these policies.

In 2023, Warren Mundine, a leading advocate for voting No at the referendum, argued multicultural communities should also be included and recognised in the Australian Constitution, along with First Nations peoples.

On both occasions, many multicultural leaders and peak bodies unequivocally rejected these divisive attempts to wedge communities, and instead advocated for an apology and to recognise First Nations in the Constitution.

This long-standing support from multicultural Australia for First Nations peoples has been clearly evident at the many Voice events I have been speaking at across the country over the past several months.

In my experiences from these events, multicultural audiences are very empathetic to supporting a First Nations Voice. They understand discrimination. They understand racism. They understand not having a Voice.

There have been many highlights of speaking at multicultural events over the past several months.

At an event in outer suburban Melbourne, organised by the Officer Sikh Temple, over 90 people demonstrated their support for the Voice by launching an online campaign to list reasons why the Voice is important.

At an event in Ballarat organised by the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, over 50 people from many multicultural communities showed their commitment for the Voice by holding up signs saying Yes in many languages.

At an event in Berwick, organised by Federation University Australia, many multicultural community members, including 2023 Australian of the Year Local Hero Amar Singh, spoke passionately about their support for a Voice.

At a broader national level, there is also very strong support from a wide range of national, state and territory peak multicultural organisations for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution.

In its submission to the Voice Parliamentary Inquiry, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) stated “its full support to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

In its position statement on the Voice, the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) stated “recognising this country’s First Peoples in the Constitution is crucial .. the upcoming referendum is an historic opportunity”.

Over 180 multicultural organisations from across Australia have also signed a joint resolution to support a First Nations Voice and have created a grassroots movement called ‘Multicultural Australia for Voice’.

This wonderful level of multicultural support for the Voice is also critical in combatting the high levels of misinformation and lies that are being propagated to multicultural communities by many No advocates.

For example, several multicultural leaders have told me of their communities being contacted by No campaigners and told complete untruths such as they will lose their land or pay higher taxes if the referendum is successful.

As with the wider population, my experiences show the best approach to addressing these incorrect claims lie in explaining the clear facts about a First Nations Voice – recognition, listening, and better results.

Professor Andrew Gunstone is one of Australia’s leading authorities on reconciliation. He is Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor Reconciliation and Professor Indigenous Studies at Federation University, where he established and leads the National Centre for Reconciliation, Truth, and Justice. He is also Co-Chair of Reconciliation Victoria and sits on several national reconciliation committees

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