13 October 2023

The Hon Kristy McBain MP
Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories
Member for Eden-Monaro


Whether it was in my role as the Mayor of the Bega Valley Shire, the Member for Eden-Monaro, or as a Federal Minister standing up for all of regional Australia – I’ve always recognised that when all levels of government and the community work together, we get better outcomes.


That’s because when we collaborate and leverage our shared strengths, we’re able to listen, we’re able to learn, and we’re able to deliver the results that our communities are screaming out for.


It’s why having more information at our fingertips – information that’s underpinned by diverse lived experiences, would significantly enhance how decisions are made into the future and for the future.


It’s why a YES vote on Saturday is a no-brainer for the type of regional Australia we want for current and future generations.


The referendum is a simple proposition – a practical change to our Constitution to recognise and listen to the First Peoples of Australia.


Recognising 65,000 years of diverse and vibrant culture in our 122-year-old Constitution for the first time – as part of our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.


Safeguarding a permanent committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to amplify the advice available to the Parliament and Governments.


A committee that could not be ripped up overnight, and that would not override or undermine our law-making process – as reaffirmed by leading constitutional experts.


A committee that could adapt over time to meet emerging needs, as it helps to drive better outcomes in key policies areas that remain a challenge in First Nations communities, particularly in our regional and rural areas.


Worse rates of disease, higher rates of infant mortality, a life expectancy eight years shorter than non-Indigenous Australians, a suicide rate twice as high, and less engagement with education and employment.


As Larrakia Elder, Aunty Bilawara Lee from the Northern Territory has said, “How do we keep our kids at school. How do we stop our communities suffering the scourge of domestic violence, suicide, mental health. Unless they talk to us, they’re never going to get it right... Give me a seat at the table, let me have my say, let me bring our suggested solutions to these major issues… I’m tired of having people make decisions for me. The Voice gives us a platform and a way forward."


Listening is essential in any job, and in this instance would be a profound step to help Close the Gap.


As Walbunja Elder, Uncle Bunja Smith on the NSW South Coast has said, “Every time we’ve had a change of government, we had a change of the advice... Aboriginal people are tired of that… By putting the Voice in the Constitution, it then cements it for perpetuity, so that we get consistent, strong, advice to Government around policy and programs that will Close the Gap.”


Governments of all persuasions have tried approaches that haven’t achieved the results we want or gotten bang for buck.


It’s time we do something different.


We need better outcomes in areas of health, education, employment and housing in First Nations communities.


And listening to grassroots perspectives through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice is a step in the right direction.


That’s why a YES vote is a small ask for truly transformative change in our regions.