Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Victorian councillor heralds Voice referendum as a ‘unifying moment’ for Australia

Hobsons Bay City Councillor, Peter Hemphill says the Voice referendum vote on October 14 should be a unifying moment in Australia’s history.

“We should recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have not been treated equally and fairly over more than two centuries,” Cr Hemphill (pictured) said in a statement.

“Ensuring a voice to parliament is the right thing to do and will help provide the change that’s needed for First Nations people, and will help us as a nation identify the future we wish to be known for. 

“For decades, governments have established and abolished legislated advisory bodies. Quite simply, they have not worked, so it’s time for a different approach.”

Cr Hemphill said he had been fortunate to make three trips to Yarrabah in north Queensland over the past 15 years, most recently last month. 

Hobsons Bay has had a friendship alliance with Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council for almost 20 years.

“People sometimes question the worth of friendship alliances, but Hobsons Bay’s connection with Yarrabah has given us a unique perspective and connection with our Indigenous communities, particularly in a year with the Voice to Parliament referendum,” he said.

“After my visit to Yarrabah last year, it was clear that local leaders were not being listened to by government on basic infrastructure. 

“They are working to get what we in Hobsons Bay take for granted. That includes access to safe drinking water, stable internet connection, better housing and better business opportunities. 

“I passionately believe that we need to do more as a country for First Nations people.”

Last week, Council held a forum on the Voice to Parliament, which heard from Yarrabah Mayor, Ross Andrews; constitutional law expert, Eddie Synot; referendum educator, Dr Heather Wearne and Yorta Yorta man and former Western Region Football League president, Ian Hamm. 

“Mr Hamm put simply what this referendum and the previous one relating to Aboriginal people in 1967 was all about,” said Cr Hemphill.

“He said the 1967 referendum was about whether First Nations people belonged in Australia. 

“This October referendum is all about whether First Nations people should be able to speak on issues that affect them. 

“Don’t be fooled by all the furphies being propagated to complicate the issue and deliberately confuse people. 

“While this referendum intrinsically relates to First Nations people, it is also about non-Indigenous people – whether we have matured as a nation and accept that we must do more to help our Indigenous brothers and sisters. 

“We need to do more to listen to them by giving the voice they deserve. I will be voting Yes and encourage everyone else to do so,” he said.

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