Supporting a National Voice
Jessie Street was pivotal in the 1967 constitutional referendum that amended the Australian Constitution to enable Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders to be counted in the census. Activist Faith Bandler remembers Jessie’s involvement in initiating the campaign for change:
“She rang me up late one night in 1956 (she always rang very late or very early) and said in her lovely, cultivated voice: ‘You can’t get anywhere without a change in the Constitution and you can’t get that without a referendum. You’ll need a petition with 100,000 signatures. We’d better start on it at once.’ And we did. Jessie’s role in our movement was absolutely vital.” Jessie Street, A Revised Autobiography, 2004
Jessie Street initiated the petition and had it drawn up by Brian Fitzpatrick of the Council for Civil Liberties and lawyer Christian Jollie-Smith. The Jessie Street Trust believes a Voice enshrined in the Constitution is the essential foundation for building reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Uluru Statement from the Heart
In 2017 Indigenous Australians crafted the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and presented the nation with a great gift. The Statement is a clear and powerful document. It makes the case that at the heart of the material problems facing Indigenous people lies “the torment of our powerlessness.” To remedy this, they have asked for and must be given a Voice. The Uluru Statement first calls for “…the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution….”
In January 2021, the Australian Government released the initial detailed report of the Indigenous Voice Advisory Group of largely Aboriginal leaders who have consulted with Aboriginal people and organisations around the nation on how a Voice to Parliament and to government can be structured and implemented.
The Jessie Street Trust's response can be found here.
The overall aim of contributing a submission is to demonstrate strong community support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. An Indigenous Voice to advise Parliament and Government on policies affecting Indigenous Australians is essential for ensuring policies work to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. This is a critical initial step in achieving true reconciliation and for healing the wounds of over two hundred years of injustice.
It is up to all of us to heed the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to enshrine a Voice of Indigenous Australians in our constitution.
It’s time to make this vital change. It’s up to us to show the Government that most Australians support an Indigenous National Voice to Parliament and Government.
How can you show your support?
We encourage you to add your voice and write a submission to the Indigenous Voice co-design group. This response can be as simple as a few sentences. Two ways to respond are:
1. Articulate support for the Jessie Street Trust submission.
2. Follow guidelines presented below to write your own response
· From the Heart – Submission Guidelines
· Uluru Statement - Submission Generator
For anyone looking for more resources on the topic: