This week the Senate passed legislation to enable the Voice Referendum, and we are in the full swing of the campaigns to influence our votes.

A referendum must be held to amend the Australian Constitution, requiring a majority of voters across Australia and a majority of voters in a majority of states to support the proposed change. 

In 2017, the Regional Dialogues brought together Aboriginal Australians from various regions and backgrounds to discuss the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people and their Voice in decision-making processes.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which emerged from the dialogues, has often been referred to as a gift to the Australian people. It begins with the words, “We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart.” It acknowledges the diversity and unity of Aboriginal peoples across Australia and emphasises their spiritual and cultural connection to the land, often called “country.”

The statement calls for three key reforms:

  • Constitutional Recognition: First Nations Australians seek the recognition of their prior occupancy and sovereignty in the Australian Constitution. The proposal to create a First Nations Voice in the Constitution would provide a representative body for Aboriginal people to have a say on laws, policies, and decisions that affect their rights and interests.
  • Makarrata: The Uluru Statement also calls for establishing a Makarrata Commission. Makarrata is a Yolngu word meaning “the coming together after a struggle.” The Commission would oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling between the Australian government and Aboriginal peoples. It aims to address the historical injustices suffered by Aboriginal Australians and promote reconciliation.
  • Truth-Telling: The statement emphasises the need for truth-telling about Australia’s colonial history, including the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal peoples and their ongoing struggle for justice and recognition. It encourages all Australians to engage honestly about the nation’s shared history to foster understanding, reconciliation, and healing.”
Allira Davis

Yarning with Allira Davis

There are a lot of stories and opinions about The Voice within First Nations communities and across the country, and it can be challenging to navigate the competing ideas.

Recently Allira Davis, Youth manager and co-chair of the Uluru Youth Dialogue, spoke with us to get to the nub of the issues. Allira is a Cobble Cobble woman from the Barungum and Birrigubba Nations. She was born in Logan, Queensland and grew up in Beenleigh.

“We’re here to educate and inform Australians rather than saying to them, “Vote Yes. This is what you need to do”. 

“We give the details and a bit of background on the journey to the Uluru Statement, and the process of the Regional Dialogues and details about what Voice, and what Treaty and Truth are.”

Allira said that the Voice is critical across all aspects of First Nations people’s lives. 

“If we have the Voice enshrined in the Constitution, it’s permanent, protected and legitimate and government politicians will have to listen to us on issues that affect us.”

She says it is a “bottom-up approach” where community leaders can have a voice and a seat at the table. 

“Our people on the ground and in communities are affected by issues the most, and they are the experts. The Uluru Statement from the Heart was gifted to the Australian people to walk with us for a better future. But it is also a mechanism to give the voiceless a Voice and ensure they are heard”. 

Recently, members of the four Lands Councils in the Northern Territory came together to re-affirm their support for The Voice, signing a Declaration presented to Minister for Aboriginal Australians Linda Burney. The 2007 Howard Government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response, or The Intervention, which saw the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, and the army sent into remote Aboriginal communities, provides just one palpable reminder of what can happen when Aboriginal people are not part of policy discussions that directly impact them.

“Having the Voice enshrined in the Constitution means that we’ll have the power, and we’ll have the self-determination, we will be at the table and will be the decision-makers for our own destinies,” Allira told me.

We hear from some Aboriginal people that they want something more radical than the Voice and want to start with Treaty.

“Not all blackfellas have to agree on everything. Not all white fellas agree on everything. It comes down to what will happen and what will change for our people,” Allira said.

“Right now, 83 per cent of First Nations Peoples do support the Voice.”

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian people to help us on this self-determination journey. We’re the only country that does not recognise our First Nations Peoples in our Constitution. And that’s sad because we have the longest surviving culture in the world, and that’s something to be extremely proud of.”

“We’re going to a referendum. The question now is whether you are well informed. And that’s what my job is.”

Allira said there will be an ongoing conversation in First Nations communities about the model and design principles for The Voice.

“But the top priority from the Regional Dialogues was getting a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution, because that will give us the power to influence laws and policies that affect us. And then the treaty process can happen. Queensland and Victoria are doing their treaties now, and a lot of people who were involved in the Regional Dialogues are involved in those treaty processes, like Dr. Jackie Huggins and Jill Gallagher. So, people are working towards the same goals. But right now, our focus as a nation is on the referendum and making sure that we can inform Australians to get into that ballot box and to make an informed vote.”

I asked Allira if she thinks people distrust the process because they have experienced so much disappointment in the past.

“We are a healing nation. We haven’t healed. We haven’t reconciled with Australians. And, you know, it’s an incredibly traumatic process for a lot of people.”

“I was speaking with an elder in New South Wales who said he had never voted, but he said he would vote [in the Referendum] which brought me to tears, because our old people have been through this traumatic journey of trying to fit into a society that doesn’t fit for them.”

Allira says the young people she encounters in her work are progressive. 

Young people led the climate action movement. Young people led the marriage equality movement. So, there’s a lot of appetite out there for young people to get involved. We have young people coming on board each day, which is really exciting. 

“We’ve done some polling, and young people from ages 18 to 35 are our strongest supporters – they are ready and enthusiastic and energetic.”

“We also need to reassure our elders that they’re okay and we’re looking after them, but also mentally looking after ourselves as well.”

All Australians are going on a journey together, Allira said.

“We’re going to focus our energy on giving information to the people who are willing to engage.”

“We need to make sure all Australians get involved and talk about the Voice at their dinner tables, talk about it in their workplaces, because they have the right to vote and the power to vote. 

“We live in a democracy where we can do that, and that’s what a democracy is. Other countries can’t do that. This sounds really nerdy of me, but I think it’s cool.

But it has been a tough journey. 

“We are three per cent of the population and we need the ninety-seven per cent to walk with us for a better future for Australia.”

“Having those genuine conversations really helps. Not just in Reconciliation Week, not just in NAIDOC week but each month, each day of the year, leading up towards the referendum and sharing all that information we have, and being there for us.”

Yarning Circles

For people having trouble weighing up the issues and different points of view, Allira recommends attending a yarning circle.

“We’re inviting the Australian public to participate in our virtual Yarning Circles to increase their awareness and understanding of the First Nations Voice prior to the referendum. We’re hoping to give people a better understanding of what the Voice is and from our perspective as well.”

“Our main goal is knowing that there is this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make history as a nation. We want people to be informed on the Voice, and to know which way they will vote when referendum day comes.”

People can register to participate in a Yarning Circle here –


If you have questions about the voice, see these FAQs

All images supplied.