Why I am voting yes for the Voice 

By Johanna de Wever, CEO, PACFA

9 October 2023

I am often reminded by members that PACFA is a broad church, and indeed this tolerance of difference in the pursuit of value and recognition is something I greatly admire about PACFA and its members. Watching the commentary in social media I have seen how challenging it can be to hold space for people with different beliefs, priorities and politics. However, I have faith that PACFA members, by lieu of their advanced training and practice, are well equipped for these difficult and complex conversations.

In this spirit of transparency, and authenticity, I am also wanting to share with you my own personal thoughts about the upcoming Voice referendum.

1. I am voting yes for the Voice because the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people is well recorded and I find it personally distressing. Whilst not a solution to systemic failures of policy and funding, giving our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a Voice follows an established path of recognition used in other multicultural countries.

2. I am voting yes for the Voice because I have observed the path of societal progression over the last 20 years and firmly believe that an imperfect tool can be the best available option. I contrast the increase in support for LGBTQIA+ people since the successful marriage equality referendum with the sudden dearth of discussion of an Australian Republic (once also a widely supported idea) following the failed referendum on this question in 1999.

3. I am voting yes for the Voice because I fear what a successful 'No' vote would do to our Australian community. I think of the hope felt by many, Indigenous and non-Indigenous after the 'Apology to the Stolen Generations' and worry about the pain felt equally if the Voice is rejected. 

4. I am voting yes because I reject wholeheartedly the idea that ‘if you don’t understand the detail just vote no’. This kind of thinking is fundamentally out of step with our lives. There are many things I don’t understand about the world today – electricity, how aeroplanes fly – but I still find them useful and beneficial. We all benefit from sharing the knowledge and abilities of people who are different to ourselves.

5. Most importantly, I am voting yes because the Indigenous people I trust tell me this is the right path. At PACFA we are fortunate enough to have the guidance of PACFA's College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices (CATSIHP), led by Indigenous people with experience and training in healing and supporting others. They have generously stepped forward to share their expertise about the impact of colonialization and the associated trauma, and what their communities need going forward. PACFA members have already benefited considerably from the wisdom, knowledge and practices shared by our Indigenous Healing Practitioners and will continue to do so. Our CATSIHP members are an invaluable support to PACFA’s efforts to achieve its mission, for the benefit of all of us. I am listening to these voices and being guided. This is my responsibility as an ally and one I take seriously.

I hope the Voice is supported by the majority of voters as I believe it is an important step for all Australians. But equally I hope that Australians continue to have faith in their community and trust in the good intentions of others. With good faith anything is possible – without it, nothing is probable.