Australians have made their voices heard on the proposal put forward by our indigenous brothers and sisters to establish an advisory body to the federal parliament.
While the question was defeated, discussion and debate has pushed the national discourse to recognise from all sides that more should be done to support our indigenous community. What this looks like won’t be through a voice enshrined in the constitution, but rather now a subject of further discussion as we work towards a new national consensus.
Politicians must take heed of the trends demonstrated through the ballot, drawn along the lines of cities and rural areas, educational completion rates and what percentage of the community identify as indigenous.
Had the constitutional proposal been accepted, it would have forced further debate and deliberation within the parliament to determine the format of any advisory body.
Australia has had a total of 45 nation-wide referendums since 1901, some of which have been held at the same time with a number of different questions being asked.
Eight of these have been successful and none have been successful without bipartisan support.
While the RTBU does not profess to be experts on the matter of indigenous affairs, we hold a long rich history of supporting the calls of members, especially where disadvantage exists. As unionists, we have a responsibility to stand with those who need most support.
Examining the closing the gap metrics, we know that our indigenous brothers and sisters are more likely to be incarcerated, die younger, leave school earlier and are less likely to gain and hold employment. As a union dedicated to imping outcomes for all, this is an area deserving of attention within our ranks.
When our RTBU brothers and sisters called for our support they had it. With no opposing views or representations from our RTBU indigenous members, we pressed on in the campaign, united with Australian unions nation wide as the next iteration of the multi-generational struggle in support of improved outcomes that the Australian workers movement has long supported.
While the recent vote has rejected the constitutional voice proposal, it does not spell the end of the long road to reconciliation. It does not draw a line under our efforts to address key indicators, and it certainly does not mark the end of the road on campaigning for social change targeted at improving outcomes.
With work to be done, the RTBU will continue to listen to members in determining the next chapter for positive, united and collective change.