Big Issues

“We Are Definitely Leading The Change”: Young People On The Voice Referendum

Uluru Youth Dialogue Voice to Parliament Person Holding Indigenous Flag

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Late last week, around a hundred young First Nations and non-Indigenous delegates from across Australia attended the Uluru Youth Dialogue’s Hands on Heart National Youth Conference. The conference aimed to up-skill and educate young leaders about the upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum

Junkee was invited to chat to Allira Davis, proud Cobble Cobble woman and co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue, as well as two delegates Dylan Adams and Karla Da Roza about the Hands on Heart conference, what it means to be a young person voting in the referendum, and what they hope to take away from the event. 

Ky Stewart, Junkee: Why have all these young people gathered here today?

Allira Davis: We have over 80 non-Indigenous Australians from different cultural and faith backgrounds and we want them to take away the information they’ve learned here and go back into their communities and engage [with them] and talk about the Voice to Parliament, the details, what the process is and where it came from. 

We have some really enthusiastic, energetic young people here that just really want change and want to help us on this journey. We gotta remember that the Uluru Statement from the Heart was gifted to the Australian people, it wasn’t gifted to politicians or the government to make the decision, we’re giving it to the Australian people to walk with us for a better future for Australia. 

Karla Da Roza: All these young people here gathered today for the Hands on Heart Conference to come together, connect, and strengthen our journey towards the invitation that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We’re here to educate ourselves, learn how to lift up First Nations voices, and how to spread that within the community.

What do you hope the main takeaway from today is?

Allira: We definitely want [the delegates] to take the resources that we give them and [use] the information to ensure that their communities can make an informed and conscious decision based on the factual information that we’ve provided. 

Angus: I hope the main takeaway is to learn how we can improve the ‘Yes’ campaign messaging to our local communities and, for me specifically, to young people and new voters. The lessons I learn from this I’m going to take back to my community down in South Sydney and use it to run an ‘18s for Yes’ campaign locally. 

Karla: It is such a privilege to be here. I feel like I have a responsibility and I want to take what I’ve learned and just spread the message and always link it back to First Nations authority. We’re relying on 97 percent of the population that are non-Indigenous but we need a majority of votes in a majority of states. Unfortunately, inevitably, you’re going to have a lot of non-Indigenous people advocating so it’s really important to link that back to the First Nations authority, which is the Uluru Statement.

It’s widely believed that young people are going to be the deciding factor in the referendum, how does that make you feel? 

Angus: It makes me feel empowered that I’m able to have an affect on Australia as a whole. It also makes me feel a bit disappointed that a lot of young people are very detached, specifically 18 year olds. The first thing they’ve had to vote on is a referendum which is arguably more important than a state election and there’s a lot of misinformation, [and] even just a lot of information and it’s tough for them to sift through that and make an informed decision. Because of that, there’s a lot of young people that aren’t engaged in it. 

Being 18 and coming into this with fresh eyes and new perspectives is really important. Obviously, everyone here is a young person but being 18 you’ve got a different sort of worldview. I think perspectives like that always enrich the conversation and I think it’s important that there’s that very wide range of people.

Allira: It emphasises that we are young and we are the future. Our biggest supporters are our young people and we even saw it in the recent election, when Albo got in. So we need to acknowledge that the referendum will be held on a Saturday and some young people might be working but emphasise the fact that your vote is important and your say is important. Whatever your vote is, we just want you to make an informed and conscious decision.

Karla: Young people are definitely leading the change. You can see all different movements that young people are really active and really want greater and better futures for ourselves and everyone else. I think that’s the key, it’s not just about yourself and I think young people have that mindset a bit more.

How do you think young people can get more engaged in the referendum? 

Karla: Just getting out there, having those conversations, having people breaking it down, and really linking it back to a value system. I think young people are trying to figure out who they are and it’s really difficult, so I think it’s really linking it back to your value system and grounding [the Voice vote] to who you are. 

Dylan: I think there’s a dual role for young people to get engaged but there’s also a role for the organisations to engage with young people, especially new voters through social media campaigns, but in a way that promotes this sort of [healthy] dialogue.

What do you say to young people who are on the fence? 

Allira: Finding factual information and speaking to someone who’s been involved in the Uluru Statement journey and the process. We’re [the Uluru Youth Dialogue] here to talk to you, we’re here to have a conversation, we’re here to have a yarn, we’re here to have the hard conversations too. If you’re sitting on the fence about it at the end of the day, you’re going to have to vote anyway so make sure you’re informed from the appropriate resources. 

Just find out more information and research, but don’t always ask a First Nations person what they’re gonna vote, respect that we have a traumatic history with our country. 

Dylan: I think it is the responsibility of young people to start branching out and consider different viewpoints. That’s a way that they can build a more solid idea of what they actually stand for, even if they’re talking to someone that disagrees with them, that could affirm their beliefs. 

Editor’s Note: The above conversation was edited for length and clarity.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on X

Image: Unsplash