OPINION – Vote ‘yes’, for every Australian Opinion Property/Sports/Opinion - popup ad by News Of The Area - Modern Media - June 29, 2023 DEAR News Of The Area, I FEEL compelled to respond to a recent letter written by Peter Weyling about the Voice to Parliament. Peter makes several errors in his attempt to argue the ‘no’ case. Firstly he writes “the Constitution was built on a simple democratic principle, and that is that every Australian is equal before the law”. Unfortunately, this is not true. The purpose of the Constitution was to bring together all the separate colony states into a federated whole. The document set out the roles of state and federal authorities and effectively established the three tiers of governance – Parliament, Executive Government and Judicature. The original Constitution did NOT recognise that “… every Australian is equal before the law.” In fact it did not even acknowledge that Indigenous people existed. They were not seen as Australians, or indeed even people. Their existence wasn’t mentioned in the original Constitution because the small group of Englishmen who wrote the Constitution well more than 200 years ago believed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were a ‘dying race’ not worthy of citizenship or humanity. The Voice to Parliament will NOT be a ‘fourth branch’ of the Constitution. The Voice will be an advisory body that represents the interests of Indigenous Australians to Parliament about matters that affect them directly. Many groups currently advise Parliament on matters that affect them, including the mining industry, the Australian Medical Association and the gambling industry. These are professional lobby groups that have the money to buy influence. Indigenous people do not have this luxury and that is why they need the Voice. Peter goes on to write that Indigenous Australians already have a voice, because there are currently 11 Indigenous MPs. This is an erroneous argument often repeated by those in the ‘no’ camp. The fact is that MPs are elected to represent the interests of all people in their electorate – not just a select section of it. Indigenous MPs cannot choose to speak on behalf of Indigenous people at the expense of others within their electorate. This is about as laughable as claiming that Greek or Chinese MPs represent the interests of Greek or Chinese Australians. He also writes about the National Indigenous Australian Agency, saying that its staff are the ‘voice of Indigenous peoples’. But these individuals are employees, chosen by the government agency because they meet certain selection criteria. Members of The Voice to Parliament committee will be chosen by their communities to represent them. This is a significant difference. Further, the NIAA can be easily rescinded at any point, just like the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission were when politicians no longer wanted to deal with them. Changing the Constitution so that it finally recognises the distinct needs of our Indigenous brothers and sisters has the potential to address the horrendous realities of their shorter life span, greater than national average infant mortality rates, greater than national average suicide rates, greater average rates of substance abuse and incarceration rates greater than the national average. Indigenous children continue to be removed from their homes at a much greater rate than non-Indigenous children. If just one of these unacceptable issues could be addressed as a result of the Voice to Parliament, then we all have a duty to vote YES. To pretend that the needs and interests of Indigenous Australians are currently being met by our Constitution is foolish and irresponsible. We must do something now, to bring about change for the better. Leaving things as they are simply because we are scared of change is not fair, and it is not right. Changing the Constitution IS a big deal. That’s why it must go to a referendum. Change is a necessary part of growth. We have changed a lot since our Constitution was first written, and numerous referendums have sought to change the document to reflect those changes. We have the opportunity to change it again now, so that it better serves the interests of ALL Australians. J.KELLY-WILLIAMS, Toormina.