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PEN Melbourne members support for The Voice

February 21, 2023 IN WIP
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We say ‘Yes’ to the Voice!

In 2017 the National Constitution Convention of the first sovereign nations of the Australian continent offered the Australian People the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It calls ‘for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.’

The Voice will pave the way for reforms that will address the impact of colonisation on the lives of the First Nations Peoples of Australia and restore their ‘rightful place in [their] own country.’

The Statement declares that their sovereignty, a spiritual notion for the First Nations Peoples, ‘has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.’

We welcome the Statement’s call for a First Nations Voice and its invitation to walk with the First Nations Peoples in a movement for ‘justice and self-determination.’

By lending our support to the Voice in the upcoming Constitutional Referendum, we will take the most significant step in our journey together towards ‘a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.’

We understand that the Constitutional Referendum will be about the fundamental principles that underpin the Voice: the Constitutional recognition of the First Nations Peoples and the Australian Government’s active engagement with them in designing and implementing the policies that affect their lives.

We understand that the proposed Constitutional Referendum has resulted from a lengthy process of public consultation and scrutiny, which began in 2010 and includes ten reports on constitutional recognition.

We accept the advice provided by the Referendum Working Group and the Constitutional Expert Group that enshrining the Voice in the Constitution will not bestow special rights on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The primary objective is to give them an opportunity to speak and be heard in the decision-making processes about their lives, homes and future as First Nations Peoples of this land.

We ask our fellow Australians, from every ethnic and cultural background, to support the Voice. This is our chance to accept the gift offered by the First Nations Peoples to become part of their history which began more than 60,000 years ago.

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International