Uluru Dialogue co-chair says Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum the ‘last roll of the dice’

The Voice vote "is the best chance we've got for real structural reform", Aunty Pat Anderson said.

The Voice vote "is the best chance we've got for real structural reform", Aunty Pat Anderson said. Photo: AAP

The referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is the ‘last roll of the dice’ for structural reform in this country, Uluru Dialogue co-chair Pat Anderson says.

The referendum, slated to be held in the second half of this year, will ask Australians whether Indigenous recognition should be enshrined in the nation’s constitution.

Aunty Pat, who is on the referendum working group, said the vote would change everything for Indigenous Australians regardless of the result.

“We’ve got a big job here,” she told the University of NSW on Monday night.

“This is the best chance we’ve got for real structural reform – not another tinkering here and tinkering there.

“We’ve got nowhere to go now. We have tried everything. This is our last throw of the dice.”

Aunty Pat and fellow Uluru Dialogue co-chair Professor Megan Davis put forward their case for a First Nation Voice to Parliament during UNSW’s annual Gandhi Oration.

Much of the recent debate around the referendum had been shrouded in misinformation, Professor Davis said.

“We want Australians to say yes. We want the state to consult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when we’re making laws and policies about their lives,” she said on Monday night.

“That’s what we’re asking Australians to vote on. We actually want Australians to vote on the principle.

“That’s the thing that will compel the federal government and the federal parliament to change its behaviour. But we can’t do that on our own.”

Enshrining the Voice into the constitution will ensure it’s protected regardless of who is in government, Aunty Pat said.

“Every time there is a change of government, or there’s a change in even a senior bureaucrat, we all have to troop to Canberra again, justifying why we need those funds for our communities,” she said.

“Everything goes back to ground zero as if nothing has happened. So we’ve got to start again, and again, and again.”

Professor Davis said she was confident a yes vote would get up.

“We knew that at some point it would come under the stress test of the two major parties bickering and that seems to be what’s going on now,” she said.

“But Pat and I, we’ve travelled around the country doing a lot of community work.

“We feel confident from all of the Australians that we’re talking to that people are supportive.”

Legislation to enable the referendum is expected to be introduced to Parliament next month.

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