Big Issues

The Voice Failed, Now It’s Time Non-Indigenous ‘Yes’ Voters Show Up

Voice to parliament referendum Yes voters Aboriginal flag Jan 26 protest

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Some Indigenous ‘Yes’ campaigners are observing a week of silence to reflect on the loss of the Voice to Parliament, but that doesn’t mean that non-Indigenous ‘Yes’ voters get to be silent. In fact, now’s the time to stand up and show up.

The Voice to Parliament referendum has been traumatising for First Nations peoples, and now the vote is in, we have to reckon with the reality that this nation doesn’t care enough about us.  While non-Indigenous people get to vote ‘Yes’, and walk away, First Nations peoples will be forced to live with the long-lasting consequences of this referendum for years to come. Now we need support and allyship from every non-Indigenous ‘Yes’ voter who told us they cared. 

Something that infuriated me throughout this referendum was non-Indigenous people telling me they were voting ‘Yes’ for me or for my people. I heard ridiculous claims that they were voting ‘Yes’ to “end racism” and “stop dispossession”. Safe to say, the white saviour complex was rife. These narratives made many non-Indigenous people believe they were morally superior for voting ‘Yes’. But voting ‘Yes’ doesn’t absolve you from putting in the work. It’s time to do more than writing three letters on a piece of paper. 

Since the Voice failed, non-Indigenous people have said they’re embarrassed to be Australian. But why are you only embarrassed now? Indigenous people have been telling you about the lack of empathy towards our people for over 200 years. 

Our people die almost 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous people. We’re the most incarcerated people in the world  in fact, First Nations children are 26 times more likely than their peers to be incarcerated. Our government still allows gas and coal companies to desecrate sacred land. None of this is new: Australia is still the same racist country it was before. 

So I ask all our non-Indigenous ‘Yes’ voters, what now? Will you fight with us? Do you now understand the vitriol against us? The lack of empathy? How little this country thinks of us? Take your embarrassment and use it for good.

I’m expecting to see non-Indigenous people who were so loud during the referendum put pressure on the government and help fight for land back. I’ll see you on the streets on Invasion Day and at Deaths in Custody vigils and rallies. I’ll see you at the climate protests that are giving space for First Nations authority to speak about how to care for the land. 

To the Labor Government, what are you going to do now? If you actually wanted to help Indigenous people then you’d put an end to gas and coal companies opening new mines, to stop Santos from drilling gas wells in the Pilliga, and stop the close connection Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has to Rio Tinto. You could adequately address the harm climate change is causing in the Torres Strait or implement all 339 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

You wouldn’t, if you cared about First Nations peoples, try to introduce Intervention era policies like alcohol bans and cashless cards in only Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The Labor government could actually make an attempt to address health and housing inequality beyond the Closing the Gap report or stop the ongoing removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Give us our land back. Hell, give us a treaty

Now is the time to tell the truth. You don’t get to tap out of the fight feeling good that you voted ‘Yes’. We’re continuing the fight, and so should you. We’re waiting for you to put your well-meaning vote into tangible action. 

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

Image: Getty