Beyond the Mekong

Aboriginal Elder Urges Australians to Vote Yes and Without Guilt

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Beyond the Mekong | Politics | Oceania

Aboriginal Elder Urges Australians to Vote Yes and Without Guilt

A conversation with Jill Gallagher.

Aboriginal Elder Urges Australians to Vote Yes and Without Guilt
Credit: Photo Supplied

Jill Gallagher is a senior elder from the Gunditjmara nation, a spokeswoman for the Aboriginal community in the southeast Australian state of Victoria and a key advocate for the yes campaign and the Voice to Parliament, which will be decided through a referendum this Saturday.

She says non-indigenous Australians should not feel any guilt about past atrocities committed against Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who inhabited the continent for 60,000 years before European settlement.

But the current generation does have a responsibility to recognize the existence of first nations people and put an end to Terra Nullius, or “land uninhabited,” a concept used by the British to justify the colonization of the continent.

Gallagher was among the signatures to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, written by delegates to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention in 2017, which served as the basis for the referendum and for the first time constitutional recognition of Australia’s first nations.

Proposed changes to the constitution essentially say in part “the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government” on issues that affect them.

Further, Parliament shall “have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

Religious groups, artists, corporations, and major league football and sporting clubs have backed the yes vote. But opinion polls are favoring the no campaign amid accusations of scaremongering by its backers, including conservative politicians.

“I don’t know what the fear is,” Gallagher told The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt.

She said non-indigenous Australians have nothing to fear by voting yes, as no government can be thrown out, no one will lose their backyard and that Australian Aboriginals remain among the oldest living cultures on Earth, and that deserves to be recognized.