Australians are gearing up for a very important weekend: the first referendum since 1999.
Come October 14, the nation will be asked if it should enact a parliamentary advisory role for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, giving them a more vocal role in legislation.
It’s important ahead of Saturday that we listen to the elders of the community and what a yes vote would mean to them.
Aunty Bilawara Lee is a proud Larrakia woman who works tirelessly for her community and has lived through years of injustice.
She hopes that a yes vote will acknowledge the disempowerment of her people.
“I’ve gone through the referendum to become an Australian citizen, and I went through the Bark Petition, the Larrakia Petition, the Marrakata Petition; I was there for the Sorry. And I was there for the development of the Uluru Statement to the Heart,” she said.
“I’ve seen so much history in my lifetime. Now is the next sensible step to recovery and, you know, recompense Aboriginal people for all that was done to them.
“How do we keep our kids in school? How do we stop our communities from suffering the scourge of domestic violence, suicide and mental health.”
Aunty Bilawara Lee said it would also establish a clear two-way flow of advice and communication over policies directly affecting First Nations people.
She shared: "Unless they talk to us, they’re never going to get it right. How can they find the solution for a society that’s as ancient as ours without understanding the way we think and feel? And I’ve had so many people say to me, ‘You’re an elder, why don’t you fix this problem?'
“Ok, give me a seat at the table. Let me have my say. Let me bring our suggested solutions to these major issues.”
The elder noted how ‘tired’ she was of having parliament make decisions on behalf of the community.
She hopes the movement will succeed and create a pathway to a ‘better life’ for even those who come after her.
“The Voice gives us a platform and a way forward. It’s really important that my children, my grandchildren and those who come behind us, my descendants, to be able to have a better life,” she said.
“You know, we’re not asking for money, we’re not asking for your backyards, we’re not. We just want recognition, acknowledgement and respect to be included in the national debate.”Featured Image Credit: TikTok/yes23au