There are just under four weeks to go until Canberrans head to the polling booths with a once-in-a-generation chance to bring our country together and change it for the better.
It is an opportunity to accept the generous offer from First Nations Australians to walk together on the path to reconciliation and listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians when it comes to matters that directly affect their lives.
A Yes vote for the Voice is about practical recognition. It’s about listening. And it’s about ensuring the investments we make are delivering a practical difference on the ground.
It is an opportunity that I hope we, as Canberrans, do not take for granted.
We cannot get complacent and assume that a resounding Yes vote from Canberra is a sure thing.
As one of your Senators for the ACT and a strong supporter of the Voice to Parliament’s Yes Campaign, I cannot stress how important every conversation is that you have between now and Referendum Day on 14 October: conversations with colleagues, conversations with friends and family, or even conversations with people on the street at one of the many volunteering opportunities across Canberra and the surrounding region.
If we want to deliver that resounding Yes vote, we need all hands on deck spreading the message about how a Yes vote on 14 October will bring our country together and change it for the better.
The way I see it, there are three compelling reasons to say Yes.
Firstly, it’s about paying respect to 65,000 years of culture and tradition and recognising the world’s oldest continuing culture in our nation’s birth certificate.
Secondly, it’s simply about listening. I think the Prime Minister put it best when he said, “People should be consulted on matters that affect them; that’s just good manners”.
Finally, this referendum is about delivering better outcomes for First Nations people in areas like health, education, jobs and housing because when governments listen to people on the ground, they make better decisions, get better results and deliver better value for money.
At the moment, we’re still seeing around an eight-year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous Australians.
Nationally, 68 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20-24 years had attained Year 12 or equivalent qualification, compared to 91 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.
And only 81 per cent of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people are living in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) housing, compared with 94 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.
It’s clear that the current approach isn’t working. That’s why it’s time for us to walk a different path, together as a nation.
We have a 320,000-person-strong voting base here in the ACT that has the power to seriously influence the count for the national total.
With less than four weeks to go, now is not the time for complacency. If you’ve been thinking about joining the Yes campaign, now’s the time.
You can find out how to join the official campaign by heading to the Yes23 website.
This is not about partisan politics. I’ve been campaigning for Yes alongside volunteers from across the political spectrum and with people who have never been activists before but have been motivated to play their part in delivering this crucial change and be part of history.
This is about unifying Australia and moving our country forward together. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Voting Yes is something we can all do to make a practical difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today and for the next generation.
That’s why I’ll be voting Yes on 14 October and I hope that all Canberrans join me in embracing this opportunity to recognise, to listen and to drive practical change.