We, the First Nations Uluru Youth Dialogue, stand by the Uluru Statement from the Heart and call for constitutional enshrinement of the First Nations Voice to Parliament.

Over the past two years, First Nations youth have worked alongside our Elders to continue the work they have done for generations to ensure we have a better future where our voices and our children’s voices are heard and respected.

The Voice is not a new concept. It is a mechanism which our people have advocated for throughout history. It is the only constitutional reform on the table which is supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Recent comments by Minister Ken Wyatt’s Senior Advisory Group leaders suggest a legislated Voice is the “common-sense approach to the need to empower Indigenous Australians”. This is enormously concerning to us as young people.

First Nations peoples’ voices are not heard in our country. We need to have the appropriate recognition to take back what is ours. This will not come through a legislated body. History tells us that. Legislating a Voice is not a “stepping stone towards constitutional recognition”.

The possibility of a legislated Voice leading to a constitutional Voice is slim at best and will only set the Voice up to fail. We do not agree with a “try before you buy” approach.

To be effective, the Voice must be constitutionally enshrined. It cannot be a vehicle subject to the whim of the government of the day.

We should not underestimate the amount of evidence that shows Australians from all walks of life support a constitutionally enshrined Voice.

Over four years polling from Essential, Crosby Textor, ABC, ANU and the Constitutional Values survey has demonstrated a majority of Australians would vote YES today. Ninety per cent of the submissions to the Wyatt Voice design are in favour of a referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament.

As young people, we have confidence that our fellow Australians will respond to the invitation for a better Australia and stand with us to vote YES at a referendum.

The 1967 referendum demonstrated that Australians understand what it means to allow people to have a fair go. We have faith that Australians will unite once again.

The vision of a protected Voice is about structural change and giving First Nations political power. It is not a Reconciliation exercise.

Similarly, the Voice is not about what sits comfortably within political party rooms and should not be used as a political football. We are talking about people’s lives — we are talking about humanity and equality. The Uluru Statement isn’t a symbolic gesture, it is powerful and offers substantial change.

Our people suffer from laws made about them but not by them. We have seen our Elders fighting for our voices to be heard in all aspects of our lives. Ironically, the process we are now witnessing in public discussion of the Uluru Statement is attempting to silence our voices. All the while the Government chooses to engage with advisers rather than the community.

There is unfinished business in this country, it’s the festering wound which cannot heal. Australia, please listen and learn. We need a change in our lifetime. We need to prevent youth suicide by having our say on what works for our kids.

We must prevent the over-representation of our mob in the criminal justice system by allowing us to address the issues and contribute to reforming the laws, policies and systems so that we help our brothers and sisters rather than incarcerating them.

We need to ensure our babies are with family and surrounded by culture. We must stop deaths in custody. We must protect Country. We, as young people, will not feel empowered if we settle for a short-term fix which will not provide us with real change to our and future generations’ lives.

As young people we say this is our future! Do not take this opportunity away from us for a better nation for all.

Our opportunity to change the future is now.

The time to go to a referendum is now.

As youth, we stand strong with our cultural authority and stand tall with our Ancestors. In 1967 we were counted, in 2021 we seek to be heard.

By Allira Davis and Bridget Cama

Allira Davis (Birrigubba and Cobble Cobble) and Bridget Cama (a Wiradjuri and Pasifika Fijian woman) are co-chairs of the Uluru Youth Dialogue