Yarrabah Affirmation calls for a Voice referendum in the next legislature

A meeting of the architects of the Uluru Declaration over the weekend reaffirmed the group’s vision of a voice in parliament and called for a referendum on the issue to be held in the next legislature.

After a weekend of discussions, the gathering of senior First Nations leaders from across the country would be the largest since the original Uluru convention in 2017, the Yarrabah Affirmation said.

The document indicates their commitment to pursue the creation of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations body in Parliament that would advise governments on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.

Professor Megan Davis, who co-chaired the rally with Pat Anderson AO and Noel Pearson, said that with the federal election called, now was the time to recreate the momentum behind the voice.

“It’s been five years, and … we’re saying, we’re ready, the job is done,” she told NITV News.

“That’s what the Yarrabah Affirmation is about… it’s time for a referendum.”

The group was made up of Land Council representatives from across the country, as well as First Nations youth mentored by the Uluru Dialogue.

To cap off the weekend, the delegation paid a solemn visit to the tree of knowledge about the country of Gunggandji in Yarrabah.

It was there that a Yarrabah man, Alfred Neal, and others helped strategize for the 1967 referendum calling for First Nations people to be counted among the country’s population.

It was the most successful referendum in Australian history, a result the delegation hopes will be repeated.

“Today we met Pop Neal,” said Professor Davis.

“We go out, we listen to him…and the incredible work he and this community did for 1967.

“And that’s why we’re here in Yarrabah, because we wanted the two campaigns to come together.”

After what would have been a fruitful weekend that culminated in the Yarrabah Affirmation, the group feels confident about the chances of winning a referendum.

Nolan Hunter, head of engagement at Uluru Dialogue, said after decades of advocacy, he believes a large swath of the public is behind them.

“This voice is nothing new,” he said.

“He continues that journey and the message of all of our people before us… talking about the same thing over and over again.

“And there are many more people across Australia, not just Indigenous people… who support the Uluru declaration, a referendum and a voice, an Indigenous voice.”

Two dates have been designated as options for a referendum: May 27, 2023 or January 27, 2024. The former is an auspicious date, being the 56th anniversary of the success of the 1967 referendum.

Anthony Albanese told SBS World News on Sunday that he had pledged to hold a referendum in his first term, if elected prime minister.

Scott Morrison’s government has allocated millions of dollars to set up 35 “local and regional” advisory bodies across Australia, and go to a referendum once consensus is reached.

Michael J. Chiaramonte