5 October 2023

Life Without Barriers joins the call for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

Image: It's a yes from the community sector.

The Statement from Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).

Over six years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates ‘from all points of the Southern sky’ gathered together and crafted the Uluru Statement from the Heart. They invited us to walk with them in a ‘movement of the Australian people for a better future’.

As representatives of the community sector, we stand ready to accept the generous invitation from First Nations peoples and take the next step towards that better future.

We will be saying ‘Yes’ at the referendum on October 14th, and we call on you to join us on this journey.

A Voice to Parliament will make our system fairer by ensuring that everyone has a chance to be heard.

It is a critical next step towards a future where First Nations peoples are respected and listened to and have the opportunity to inform government decisions about their own lives.

Drawing from our collective experience working with communities across Australia, we know that our political leaders make better policies when they listen to the voices of people directly affected.

Time and time again, in the disability sector, the housing sector, employment services, and aged care, we’ve seen that policies can succeed or fail based on how well governments respect and listen to the communities affected.

We’ve seen progress being made for communities who have been historically marginalised – like the LGBTQIA+ community – when we’ve truly listened to their experiences.

Unfortunately, governments have too often refused to listen or take up the advice of First Nations peoples.

Successive governments have ignored the urgent calls from First Nations leaders and peak organisations to invest in community-controlled domestic violence organisations, take meaningful steps to protect Country and address climate change, and reform our justice system.

As a country, we have now reached a critical crossroads. We can either take this next step forward together towards deeper listening, healing and growth for our nation or sit on the sidelines and risk seeing this invitation rejected.

It is time for all of us to act; to have the conversations in our communities – around dinner tables, in lunchrooms, workplaces, community halls, and on sporting fields.

Street by street, these are the actions that great social movements and transformational moments demand of us.

This is how we transform our nation and walk together towards a better future for all. The only question history will ask – what did you do to ensure that Australia voted ‘Yes’?

Dr Cassandra Goldie AO, ACOSS CEO said, "As the community sector has seen time and time again, the success or failure of policies affecting historically marginalised communities depends on whether the people they affect are at the centre of the advice."

"The status quo has not worked to close the gap between the health and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Next week's referendum represents a once-in-a-generation chance to finally recognise First Nations peoples in the Constitution, and through the Voice, turn this around and chart a new path forward."

"As the peak body for the community sector with deep social policy experience, ACOSS implores all Australians to come together to change this nation for the better by voting Yes and listening to the Voices of our First Nations communities calling for real change. We understand that some people are still not sure and encourage people to be in touch with trusted community representatives to help make an informed decision." Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

Sign the statement

If your organisation would like to join this collective community sector call for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament, please email dani@acoss.org.au.

Find the full list of signatories and statement here.

Voice to Parliament

Resources and information on the Referendum

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