Where to after the 2023 Referendum?

Reflecting on 2023 the major political issue for me is not the failure of the referendum. What was going to happen was obvious, when the wording was announced. It should have been a two-step process. However, it was not.

My adult children, most of my family, friends and I voted ‘yes’ in favour of constitutional change and a voice to parliament. Although, we knew it was doomed before the vote commenced, but one must live with hope. One must vote in a manner that signals your wishes, even if you feel strongly that you will lose.

The ‘yes’ voters I have spoken with saw the Aboriginal people of the right who campaigned against the referendum, as internally colonised, in other words they hate their own Aboriginality. The members of our communities from the left who campaigned against it, we have much more empathy for, as we know that they and their families have been the radical wing of our struggle for generations. Without them pushing for more than governments and the rest of the population is willing to give, we would have made less ground along the way. Yet, I see myself and my family and friends as the centre not trying to appease the government and the rest of the society but willing to take our time to eke out what is the just position of First Peoples in Australian society. This is not because we don’t want positive change to occur more rapidly.

When the current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, came out after the failed referendum and stated that the result was ‘not the end of the road,’ I held my breath waiting for what would be announced as the next step along the road. Maybe I have not been listening and looking hard enough but I do not think the next step has yet been revealed. As an educator and woman of the First Peoples of Australia I humbly suggest that education to close the gap on the knowledge that voting aged Australian’s have, is an imperative.

The issues raised in the National Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Bringing them Home Report and the key topics of historical acceptance; race relations; equality and equity, which were highlighted by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation need to be covered by a closing the knowledge gap education. For historical acceptance, the shared history must be known. To improve race relations, we must truly understand what the terms mean, both at a scientific and social level. Having knowledge about the difference between equality and equity and understanding why equality and equity have not been made available to all in Australian society is paramount.

During the 1990s – the decade of reconciliation, it was believed that the journey of reconciliation should have extended its reach beyond the confines of school education and study circles in churches. It needed to touch the lives of Non-Indigenous Australians, in more impactful ways.

The fact that this belief was correct was proven by the strength of the ‘no’ vote for the 2023 referendum. The true adversary faced by modern humanity is ignorance, which is not a lack of intelligence but a lack of knowledge, and combating it is crucial for progress. Ignorance has led us to ignore our responsibilities toward each other and our planet, leading to alarming levels of pollution and poverty worldwide. Education becomes the catalyst for change, empowering us to humanise conflicts, ease suffering, and foster meaningful connections.

Our collective future hinges on the decisions we make in the coming decades, which in turn depends on our understanding of the past’s impact on the present. This means understanding equity, relationships between various groups, and prominently considering Australia’s shared history.

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