I WAS born and raised in Naarm, on the lands of the Kulin nation. But I remember that growing up I had virtually no contact with Indigenous people.
I then spent my life supporting others as they grew up, as a high school teacher, teaching Australian History. I learnt a lot about the way Indigenous people were treated as lesser human beings by the original settlers.
We referenced primary sources, such as photos and excerpts from diaries. My teenage students were as shocked as I was at some of this material.
One of the most shocking accounts was an extract from the diary of Mr A.O. Neville, the poorly named Chief Protector of Aborigines in WA in the first half of the 1900s. He believed the “full bloods” would eventually die out but the “half castes” should be educated and integrated into European ways.
Neville was responsible for taking many children from their mothers. One appalling quote referred to the officers who were driving away with some children. The officers were surprised to see the mothers chasing the car and wailing, as if they cared about their children in the same way that we do! My students sat silently in horror.
The stealing of children continued in other states as well, until the mid-1900s. In NSW the Aborigines Welfare Board was finally abolished in 1969.
I’ve also seen the continuing legacy of colonisation as I have travelled to the remote parts of this country. I have seen for myself the extreme living conditions endured by Indigenous Australians.
So when I hear claims that there is no inter-generational trauma from colonisation or that Indigenous people should take responsibility for themselves and just get a job, I am saddened. Is responsibility surely not shared? As a non-indigenous Australian I know we can do better.
When I read the Uluru Statement of the Heart I found it to be such a gentle and generous document, especially considering how non-Indigenous Australians have treated Indigenous people. I thought, “surely everybody will support this invitation!”
It is an important invitation to finally recognise Indigenous people in our constitution and to give them a say in matters that affect them. It is a generous invitation to walk together to close the shameful gap in living standards, and to do so in a way that is appropriate for them.
This is why I felt compelled to support the campaign to vote Yes. In July, I joined the Yes23 campaign.
I have made hundreds of phone calls to undecided voters and have found that more than half are keen to support the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. They know that it will assist Indigenous people to improve their lives and the future of their children.
People are allowed to disagree. And some are hesitant. What is sad is that I have heard people relying on false information, such as it being a risk to the constitution or the taking over of our Parliament. These are scare tactics and I’m disappointed when I hear that people believe them.
People are also allowed to change their minds. And thankfully, they do. When I’ve explained the facts of the Voice and the modest change to the constitution most are thankful for the clarification and feel inclined to vote Yes.
I haven’t been doing this alone. We have a team of over 800 volunteers in the Wills for Yes campaign.
Emma, another member of our campaign team, says that she has joined the campaign because she wants to see real progress towards reconciliation.
Emma’s view is that “the Voice is about better policies to close the gap but it’s also about listening to the world’s oldest living culture and moving towards a more united future for all Australians”. Beautifully said, Emma!
Having lived in Brunswick for over 20 years now I feel proud to be part of a progressive thinking community. It’s a community that values social justice, equality and plain good neighbourliness.
A community where communication and consultation are valued.
I expect the good people of Brunswick will produce one of the highest Yes votes in the country because we know that empowering people by enabling them to have a say in matters that affect them is not only fair, it also leads to better outcomes.
We have our Brunswick Voice so why not an Indigenous Voice?
Margaret Ludowyk is a Brunswick resident and a member of the Wills for Yes campaign.
An invitation is extended to a Brunswick-based representative of the No campaign in Wills to submit an article of similar length to this prior to the referendum on October 14.