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Why, as a Greek Australian migrant, I say ‘Yes’ to the Voice

On July 2, many thousands of Australians, including Greek-Australians, mobilised in more than 30 cities and towns around the country in support of the Yes campaign, in support of the creation of a constitutionally enshrined advisory body called the Voice, via the referendum which is to take place later on in the year.

The aim of the Voice, an #UluruStatement From the Heart request of the 243 elected delegates out of the 250 elected delegated of the Indigenous Nations of this land, who attended the Indigenous summit at Uluru in May 2017, is to advise the Federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Government of Australia on issues that relate to the lives of Indigenous Australians, namely health, education, imprisonment rates, employment, etc.

The Uluru statement also calls for a Treaty and for Truth telling.

As repeated polling has indicated, the Voice is supported by the overwhelming majority of Indigenous Australians (83%-85%).

As it was stated more than once by our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the request for a constitutionally enshrined Voice came about, because all previous government legislative initiatives failed.

The practice of the past few decades was for the Labor governments to legislate for the creation of certain bodies, for example ATSIC and for the Coalition governments to abolish them. A Voice mentioned in the constitution can still be undermined by the elected Australian governments of the day, but governments won’t be able to legislate to abolish the Voice. If passed at this year’s referendum, then, only a new referendum will demolish what this referendum might be able to build. However, even with the existence of a possible Voice in the future, it will be Australia’s elected Parliament and Governments making decisions on issues of our First Nations peoples. The prevailing recommendations so far, are for our Indigenous Australians to elect regional and local committees /Voices, which in turn will elect a national body/Voice, that will include representatives from the Torres Straight Islanders and the remote Indigenous Aboriginal communities as well.

It is worth noting here, that other colonial societies and countries, such as USA, New Zealand, Canada, etc, have already addressed and recognized formally many decades ago, their First Nations peoples.

Currently, the Yes campaign is supported by almost all the major community, business, sports, education, unions, churches, 150+ multicultural and other organisations in Australia. The yes campaign has the support of all the state governments in the country, as well as the commonwealth Labor government, and it has majority support with the voters of The Greens, the Labor party, the women, younger and more educated Australians.

On the other hand, according to the polls, No to the Voice say the majority of the Coalition supporters, the federal Coalition parties and a number of their state branches, indirectly the Murdoch media empire, even though they do not acknowledge it, and a few well known Indigenous public figures, politicians and activists.

From the very beginning of the campaign, many Greek-Australians from all walks of life and from the entire country, have publicly stated their support for the Voice, and indicatively 300 of them signed a statement of support which was released on January 26 this year.

I am one of those indicative 300 Greek-Australians who signed the 26 January 2023 statement in support of a constitutionally enshrined Voice. I am one of the many Greek-Australians who are actively involved in the yes campaign, trying to help in any way they can.

Why do I do it?

Because, this is the least white as well as migrant Australia can do, I think, in order to recognize the historical reality that exists on this continent for the past 65,000 years.

It’s time that we formally acknowledge and recognise in our constitution the longest continues living civilization in the history of humankind, our own civilization of our First nations peoples!

I support the Voice, because I think this is the best way to close that huge gap that still exists between white and black Australia. The educational, health, employment and other gaps.

I support the Voice because the advancement of our Indigenous peoples is a key issue for the identity of 21st century Australia.

I support the Voice because I do not forget the historical injustices inflicted upon our Indigenous co-citizens. Physically, linguistically, culturally, they were almost exterminated. They were violently kicked out of their own lands like our own ancestors/refugees. They were subjected and they are still subjected to racism like my paternal grandfather in the USA in the 1920s, or like my father in Australia in the 1970s…

I know that my sentiments and my actions are supported by many. I know that there are many Greek/migrant Australians whose hearts and actions support the Yes campaign.

Having said this though, I have to acknowledge that there is still much that remains to be done, if the Voice referendum is to succeed, by winning a majority of states and a majority of votes in Australia.

There is also a lot, that our community institutions and organisations can do, in order to support the Voice referendum.

The secular Communities can and need to have a hands-on ongoing commitment. The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne And Victoria, the Greek Australian Society in Sydney and the Greek Orthodox Community of South Australia (Adelaide) have all signed a statement of support for the Yes campaign, co-signed by 150 other multicultural organisations in Australia as well.

Other community organisations have to follow their steps. It will be helpful not only for the Voice, but also for our place in the wider Australian community, if other major Greek-Australian organisations join the good fight.

Furthermore, given the confusion and ignorance that still exists in segments of the Australian Greek community, given the existence of a verbally abusive minority on social media, a minority trying to confuse and silence the yes supporters, our community organisations also need to actively campaign in support of the yes case.

By running seminars and discussions, by running community specific campaigns.

The Archdiocese, with its Australian wide structure and parishes can also contribute a lot to the campaign. It will be helpful and Christian, if priests and other church leaders attempt to support in public, on an ongoing basis, the yes campaign.

In conclusion, we have to acknowledge I think, the support given to the yes campaign by Greek-Australian media organisations, such as Melbourne based newspapers Neos Kosmos and the Greek programs of community radio stations such as 3ZZZ-92.3 FM.

  • All photos: Supplied

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