Australia has everything to gain and nothing to lose by voting Yes in the upcoming Voice referendum, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said in Port Kembla on Friday (25 August).
During a short visit, Ms Burney met local MPs Stephen Jones and Paul Scully, Yes campaign supporters, BlueScope workers and marathon runner Pat Farmer, who stopped in town during his run around the country to promote the campaign.
“There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from this referendum,” Ms Burney said.
”It is about recognising the extraordinary history of this country. The fact that we share a country that is 65,000 years old, in terms of human occupancy, and that is a gift to all of us in this country.
“It is about practical outcomes. It’s about getting better outcomes for First Peoples’ lives in this country. It is unacceptable that there is such a gap in life expectancy, it is unacceptable there is such a gap in housing, education, incarceration; you name it, it is there.
“There are people living in this country in conditions that would shock people. No clean water, incredibly expensive goods if you can get them, and housing that is absolutely inadequate. The Voice is about changing those things.
“This referendum is what you see in front of you – it’s people like the inspirational Pat Farmer, who has decided to run around Australia to heighten the awareness of the referendum and to talk to people about the importance. It’s about the BlueScope workers that have collectively had their hi-vis gear redesigned to reflect an Aboriginal story.
“It is actually about the Australian people that will make a decision in a very short period of time in relation to the way in which we want our country to be.
“The enthusiasm, the imagination that the Pat Farmer run has sparked is a reflection of what this campaign is about. But more so than the campaign, it’s the actual outcome of a successful vote to finally recognise First Peoples in the big law book in this country.”
Mr Farmer said he had spoken with Australians in all parts of the country and it had been “uplifting and impressive” to see the lengths that people were going to to show their support for the Voice and Indigenous people.
“This run is not about Pat Farmer, this is about the cause,” he said.
“This is about my footsteps bringing together communities like this here in Wollongong, in Port Kembla, and Newcastle and Sydney and Broome and Hobart and all the other towns and places, so many different places around this country. It’s just my footsteps that are the thread that is bringing the whole country together.
“We have in the Australian vernacular a term that says he or she is a diamond. And when we say he or she is a diamond, what we’re really saying is that under pressure, they come out on top and under pressure, they become something great, something truly great.
“Our Indigenous people have endured the fires, the floods, cyclones, everything that this earth has thrown at them and when I say everything, that means humanity as well.
“But because they are the diamonds of this nation, they have survived. They are – and I want to make this point once again as you’ve all heard so many times – the oldest continuous population in the world. They are continuous because of their resilience.
“My footsteps are about helping us all to realise the potential in the future of this partnership. And with that potential and with that future, we need to know and understand that we only have one shot at this in my lifetime. Let’s seize the opportunity, let’s vote Yes.”