A conversation about the Voice to Parliament

A conversation about the Voice to Parliament Main Image

05 August 2023




Media Release

A special event was held at the Bicentennial Hall in Queanbeyan on Friday, 4 August 2023 to discuss the importance of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a Voice to Parliament.

The event was attended by over 400 community members as well as over 100 viewers online.

The community heard directly from speakers: Aunty Dr Matilda House, Ngambri-Ngunnawal Elder. Yes23 Spokesperson Thomas Mayo, a Kaurareg Aboriginal and Kalkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander man. His latest book ‘The Voice to Parliament Handbook - All the details you need’ was published in May 2023 and co-authored with journalist and co-host Kerry O’Brien.

Esma Livermore, Bigambul/Dunghutti/Kamilaroi woman and Deputy Mayor Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, Member of Local Government NSW Referendum Engagement Group and Senior Officer with Reconciliation Australia.
As well as Kristy McBain MP, Member for Eden-Monaro and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.

The speakers discussed why constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a Voice to Parliament is a crucial step on the path to uniting the nation and creating a better future in Australia.

“I want my great grandchildren to know that they can grow up knowing they’re wanted in this country, no matter what colour, what blood,” Aunty Matilda House said.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council recently passed a motion to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Councillor Esma Livermore said “You really have to question why you might vote no, and why your aren’t finding out more information.”

Thomas Mayo followed with "We’re having conversations across the country, just like this one, and people are coming with questions and open minds.

"This event is an opportunity for people in the Queanbeyan region to understand how the Voice can make a tangible change for Indigenous Australians in areas such as healthcare, housing, education, and employment.

"Community discussions like this connect us, produce discussions, and build stronger support for constitutional recognition through a Voice. This campaign is all about uniting Australians and it’s been positive to see the response and welcome for us so far, including in this region..

“If you listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, whether they agree with this or not, they want to be heard. There are multiple polls that indicate well over 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support this,” Thomas Mayo said.

Kerry O’Brien said “When I’ve gone around the country, and I’ve heard why Indigenous people don’t trust the proposition, it’s because they say, that their history, since colonial and post-colonial times has been a history littered with broken promises, and so why should they believe this. Part of the answer to that is that this one is coming from Indigenous people themselves.”

Kristy McBain emphasised the importance of these conversations at both the local and national levels.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people across Eden-Monaro eager to engage in factual conversations about what The Voice will mean for our community.

“It Is so important that we get out and have conversations and that we’re prepared to be part of answering the questions as well as asking them. I think most importantly we need to make sure that we do not sit back and be idle.”

“The feedback I’ve received so far from many in the community is that now is the time to do things differently – and understanding the immense value The Voice will have, is an important step ahead of the referendum.”

In the coming months we will go to a referendum to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution.

The Voice is a key reform in the Uluru Statement from the Heart which asks all Australians to recognise the rightful place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in their own country by establishing and enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Constitution.

This was an important opportunity for the community to come together, learn and engage in a conversation about the Voice to Parliament.