A shroud of secrecy has been...
Let’s unite with the Voice
Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman
Australians have begun voting in a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of our country and give them a say in matters that affect them.
To those who claim this will “divide” Australia, I say – we are already divided by the health, education and justice outcomes that show we have failed to close the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Year after year, we hear the same reports of the yawning gap in health outcomes.
There is an eight-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians which means an Aboriginal woman my age faces 8 fewer years with kids and grandkids, family and friends.
Rheumatic heart disease was largely eradicated from developed countries more than 50 years ago, but rates of this disease in remote Aboriginal communities are among the highest in the world, higher even than in sub-Saharan Africa.
In education, Indigenous students are three times more likely to be below the minimum standard. And three times more likely to stay there.
If you’re a young Indigenous bloke today, you’re more likely to go to jail than to University.
And those results are in spite of Liberal and Labor governments over many decades trying to close the divide.
Almost everything Canberra politicians have tried over the last few decades hasn’t worked.
So this referendum gives our Parliament the chance to have an advisory group – called the Voice- that gets to have a say early in the piece, and helps us make better decisions and get better results.
And for those who know that I like things to be a balance of heart and head, let’s consider the practical impacts of better decisions. It costs taxpayers $11,000 a year to send a young Australian to university and $148,000 a year to send that same Australian to jail. If we can listen, and make better decisions, it’s going to be better for them, it’ll be better for their community and it’ll be better for Australian taxpayers.
The Yes campaign has united people from across the political divide – locally it’s an atypical meeting of opposites with my neighbours Liberal MP Julian Leeser, the Member for Berowra and former National Party member Andrew Gee, the Member for Calare and me – who can see the practical benefits of listening to the people you’re making policy about.
I remember, 13 years ago when I first stood for political office in the Hawkesbury, that people said: No one listens to us. I hope I’ve helped change that and we’ll soon get some of the services here that we know will make a difference to our kids, like aHawkesbury youth mental health service.
I think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the first peoples of Australia, deserve the same chance to be heard, and to be acknowledged in our constitution that yes, they were here when the tall ships landed.
I wouldn’t be representing my community if I thought this is as good as it gets. I think we can do better and that’s why I’m voting YES.