A Guide To Constructive Conversations about The ‘Voice To Parliament’

Reading Time 10 Minutes
Date Published 22 September 2023

Crafted through deep listening and thoughtful discourse, Counterbrace's Practice Lead, Kosta Lucas, discusses the goals and inspirations underpinning the "Yes, And..." Guide: an education resource that offers guidance on how to ensure that people's conversations about the upcoming 'Voice to Parliament' Referendum are as constructive, connective and genuinely community-building as possible.

Recommended Resources

"Yes, And..." Guide to the Voice to Parliament from Counterbrace: Go to interactive resource

"Yes, And..." Guide in a printable PDF version for workshops: Download the PDF version

Minimising harm with the Human Rights Commission: Read the guide on minimising harms in conversations about the Voice

Multilingual resources for the Voice to Parliament: Download the suite of resources (45 languages) about the Referendum from Life Without Borders

"Yes, And..." Guide's companion audio commentary: Listen to the commentary

Kosta Lucas

Head of Community Practice, DrawHistory

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For months now, we’ve been really wrapped up in the ‘Voice to Parliament’ Referendum discussion. There’s a lot out there about it—some good, some not so good. The last thing we wanted was to just add more noise. But we wanted to make something that helped.

After some soul-searching, deep listening, and many a discussion, we realised that our concern had more to do with how the discussion has been happening and what happens after the referendum has come and gone.

In terms of the referendum itself, our stance is clear to us: Yes. It’s about fairness and listening to those who’ve been here long before the rest of us. It’s about acknowledging the status that all First Peoples deserve. It’s about changing a system that should have had something like this, to begin with – at the very least.

But while we wholeheartedly support the Voice, we too are not without our own questions. And even doubts. We are also acutely aware that the Voice is not an all-encompassing solution that fixes everything. It will not change or replace the fact that communities and grassroots organisations themselves have a strong tradition of advocacy already. Not even close.

Ultimately, though – for us at least – it comes down to seizing an opportunity to change a system that is asking us whether we want it to or not, and it has only done this 44 other times. So while we can criticise how we got here, and the fact that we’re here at all, we’re still here now – and we’re saying “Yes” to the opportunity in front of us.

But regardless of what happens at the polls, what comes next is much harder to guarantee, and ultimately our position is more than “Yes”; it is “Yes And…”.

“Yes, we support the Voice, and how do we ensure its effective implementation? Yes, we recognise the right to self-determination, and what proactive steps can we take towards reconciliation now?
Yes, we acknowledge past injustices, and what else can we do to keep these issues in focus when the public interest no doubt gets diverted again?”

While the “Yes” is clear, the “And” is our acknowledgment that this is just a step, not the finish line. Our commitment shouldn’t end at the ballot. Voting “Yes” is also a pledge to engage deeper, to be more present, and to stand with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, no matter the outcome.

We’ll keep talking, keep learning, and most importantly, keep supporting our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We can’t let ourselves drift apart or feel lost in all this. If we stop talking to each other, especially about the big stuff, our communities will suffer. Talking helps; it’s how we solve problems, together. It’s how we understand each other.

So, as we navigate these conversations, we encourage you to think in terms of “Yes, And…”.

We’ve created this resource, the “Yes And…” Guide, with the hopes that it aids in sparking such thoughtful dialogues. It’s our way of saying: “Here are some ways to talk about this ‘Voice To Parliament’ Referendum, but with the right issues at the centre.” At least that is the high ideal anyway. This Guide can also help you decide whether a conversation about the Voice is the right one at that moment in time.

We have made this freely available because we believe in the importance of accessible information and tools.

If you’d like access or need advice on leveraging it effectively in your context, please connect with us. Our aspiration is not just to inform but to drive meaningful, lasting connections with one another.

View our interactive resource

Access the “Yes, And…” Guide

Take a look through our interactive resource on how we can all learn to hold healthy and productive conversations with community on matters such as Australia’s Voice to Parliament Referendum.

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