29 September 2023

Subject: Voice to Parliament

Press conference, Brisbane

Joint press conference with

Noel Pearson
'Yes' Campaign Leader

Cara Rowe
UQ Justice and the Law Society

Subject: Voice to Parliament


Hi, I'm Cara. I'm the president of the UQ Justice and the Law Society and I'm on the executive for the National Union of Students. The National Union of Students [inaudible] stands firmly behind the Voice to Parliament as a safe, fair, practical and unifying solution to solve closing the gap and to help Indigenous people in this country. It's incredible that we have so many people out here for this rally, who are keen to continue the campaign in the last two-week stretch and to make it happen. So if you want to support the campaign as well as head to yes23.com.au.


I'm very pleased as a Queenslander to be here in Brisbane to urge Queenslanders to vote ‘yes’ on October 14. This is an important state, this is the state I love, this is the state I was born in. This is a state in which the people I love – who have many problems – we can get to solve them, we can address them. I'm so concerned about their future as for Indigenous people all over the country. This is our chance. 15 years of work to set up this ball, to kick it over the middle of the post. We've got the chance to do this in two weeks. Queensland is the home of Mabo, the home of the Wik, and the home of the two peoples that are being recognised in the Constitution if we vote ‘yes’: the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is the only state that is home to the two peoples. And I'm asking the people of Queensland to honour their fellow Indigenous peoples, and to vote ‘yes’ for a reform that will lead to a brighter future for all of us – Indigenous people and the rest of the country. So for our supporters out there, I think 5,000 plus in this city and in this part of Queensland, we have got a fortnight to put our utmost energies into this vote. I'm sure you've done a whole heap already. Let's make this last fortnight our absolute aim to converse with our fellow Queenslanders and to bring them on board for ‘yes’, thank you.


It's such an honour to be here with Noel Pearson. This is his 101st event, speaking out about this most important cause. So I pay tribute to you, Noel, I salute you, for your tireless work really around the clock. We've got about two weeks now to sprint to the finish. As Noel said, we can see the try line from here and we have to absolutely sprint to the finish now.

We can make the most of this moment, we can rise to this occasion, and we can do something that we will be proud of, for the first of us but in a way that can lift all of us up. This is our generational opportunity for constitutional recognition, but to listen better, and to get better outcomes as well. We need to put an end to just making policy for First Nations people and we need to make policy with First Nations people, that begins with listening and that's how we get better outcomes. No is a cul-de-sac of division and disappointment. A ‘no’ vote is for decades more of the kind of division and disappointment which has characterised First Nations policy for too long in this country. If we want to do things better, we've got to do things differently, and that begins with listening. It's as simple as that. A ‘no’ vote is a cul-de-sac for this country, a cul-de-sac of division and disappointment. A ‘yes’ vote is a highway to a better future. This is all about making sure that we do something where the benefits will cascade down through the generations. And it's wonderful to be here at the University of Queensland. I thank you for welcoming this Griffith kid here to the campus of UQ. But as we look around here and we see this generational opportunity, we see people – young people in particular – but people of all generations who recognise that Australia is at its best when we read recognise and grasp a generational opportunity to stand with each other, to speak up for each other and stand up for each other, to listen to each other and to get better outcomes for the first of us in a way that can bring us all together and lift all of us up – and that's what this is all about.

The 'No' campaign will peddle the usual scare campaigns and misinformation. And if you peer through that misinformation, if you focus on what this vote is about and not on what it isn't about – it is about recognition, it's about better listening and it's about better outcomes. We can grab this generational opportunity together, we can do something that we can all be proud of. We can recognise that the way that we have been doing things for too long hasn't been working well enough for the first of us, or indeed for all of us. And so this is about recognising we can do things better, we can do things differently, it hasn't been working to now. And if we are genuine about closing the gap, if we're genuine about delivering for each other, then it's time to do something different. That means listening and that means a 'yes' vote. We've got just over two weeks now to sprint to the finish, to rise to this occasion, to make the most of this moment. This window of opportunity has opened and it will close again. And we don't want to see this left to our kids and their kids in some kind of generational buck pass that will sell our country short and our people short – so this is our opportunity. For everyone who has yet to make up their mind, we urge you and we ask you to vote for better listening and for better outcomes. And to all of these people who are working around the clock to do something that we can be proud of together, we thank you and we salute you as well. Thanks very much. Happy to take a couple of questions.


The Prime Minister said this morning, there's similarities around how P&C groups in schools work and how the Voice to Parliament would work. Do you think that analogy is accurate – that parents groups at schools giving advice and running fundraising events will be similar to how the Voice will operate?


Earlier this week I was in Aurukun between the mango trees of the Shire Council and the shore. It is a great, magnificent space there and we had a public meeting. It's usually where they hold public meetings. Aurukun people need a Voice at the local level to tend to all of the things they need – justice, health, education, training, employment, looking after the land, managing the country. All of those issues they have, they want to talk with government about that. And Queensland has been actually running a system in the remote communities of Queensland for about 20 years since the Beattie Government. The Queensland Government comes up to the communities, they bring a director-general of the department along, a minister comes along, and they have these meetings where they go through the agenda of issues. What the Voice brings is the Commonwealth, to sit down. And so you'll have the local government, the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government sitting down with the community in that spot on the ground in Aurukun, dealing with Aurukun business. And then at a regional level, we'll deal with the higher policy issues. And of course down in Canberra, we deal with the legislation that Parliament might have in mind, and we deal with the big picture policy issues down there. So it will be an advisory committee – it will give advice. The people on the other side of the table need not heed the advice, but I am sure that when the ideas are right, when they're sensible, when they're innovative, the people listening will take them on.


What more needs to be done by the 'Yes' campaign to convince voters to support the referendum?


Well, we've got a little over two weeks now to really sprint to the finish – to find every Australian who has not yet made up their mind and to encourage them to see this for what it is and not for what it isn't. This is about better listening and better outcomes, and providing a constitutional basis for that by recognising our first people. And the 'No' campaign will spray around all kinds of misinformation, all kinds of scare campaigns, all kinds of fear mongering, because they know that if Australians understand what this is about – better listening and better outcomes – then that is a very compelling proposition. We know we've got work to do, everybody here knows that we've got work to do. We're ready for that. We've got a little over two weeks to put in all of the work to encourage our fellow Australians to rise to this occasion and to make the most of this moment. Who knows – if we miss this opportunity, who knows when it will come around again. Our opponents, including Mr Dutton, his policy is for two referendums. He wants Australia to continue spinning its wheels in this cul-de-sac of division and disappointment. I'm confident that Australians will see this opportunity for what it is – an opportunity to listen better and get better outcomes for the first of us, in a way that could lift all of us up. Thanks very much.