Voice to Parliament Community Forum Saturday Feb 18, 2023 by Angie Finn
Over 400 people packed the lecture theatre at the University of Technology Sydney on Saturday 18 February 2023, to participate in a Voice to Parliament Community Forum hosted by Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek.
Touted as the first event of the “Yes to the Voice” National week of Action, Ms Linda Burney, Minister for Indigenous Australians and the senior Australian of the year, Professor Tom Calma each gave a presentation on the reasons for the Voice and to provide information about the process to get to this point and what’s coming next.
Professor Calma acknowledged that there are mixed views and welcomed questions saying “don’t hesitate to ask a question. You’ve come to the forum to learn and we will respectfully respond to your questions. And whether we agree or not, it is the respect between each other that is so important and it is what brings us here”.
Posters and stickers supporting the Voice were given to forum participants who relished the offerings as a visible means to show support for the Yes campaign.
Tom Calma made it clear that all the information about the Voice referendum can be found on the Government website https://voice.niaa.gov.au/
“It’s the official website on the referendum. There are fact sheets. The information is there. I urge you to have a gander”.
Ms Plibersek’s team did a fabulous job to organise and facilitate the event and roamed the room with microphones for public questions and comments.
The number of hands raised demonstrated resounding interest. Unfortunately, time ran out to allow everyone to have their say.
Of those that spoke, renowned feminist Eva Cox made a great comment about the power of legitimacy that a Voice to Parliament will deliver. Eva said “ …it is a chance to legitimate that there are people who have a legitimate right to say things publicly. This is one of the few things that does create change. ….to be able to get into the centre of power and make sure your voices are held however limited, which finally gets people to say “ohh” and break up the groups that delay change”.
Larissa Minniecon, a Kabi Kabi woman and a Torres Strait Islander spoke with hope and excitement about the Voice and the opportunities that can arise from a successful referendum. She mentioned evidence of the education opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples opportunities that came about following the 1967 successful referendum.
Shane Phillips, CEO of Tribal Warrior and renowned member of the Redfern community ended the event stating “We don’t have time to wait and let this opportunity leave us. We have to stand together”.