Can I thank Telstra for sponsoring tonight's dinner and also thank very much Paul House for that extraordinary Welcome to Country.
Paul reminded us about truth. He reminded us about peace, harmony and respect and had a magnificent glass didgeridoo, which I'm sure many of you have not seen before.
But can I begin in the language of my people, the Wiradjuri.
Ballumb Ambul Ngunnawal and Ngambri yindamarra, as Paul has said, Ngadu – yirra bang marang.
And what I have said is I pay respect to the Ngunnawal and the Ngambri people and honour their custodianship and care for country.
And I want to also acknowledge Diane Smith-Gander for having us here tonight, and also Melinda Cilento as the Chief Executive Officer and Karen Mundine from Reconciliation Australia and all of you for being here.
I thank you for putting on this event in the incredible National Gallery of this country, and for once again putting reconciliation and recognition through a Voice at the heart of your conference this week.
It is so important and is so strong.
To the business community, who have overwhelmingly come out in the support of the Voice in recent months, many of you, I thank you most deeply.
Your support and the support of your employees shows Australia's capacity for reconciliation, to not ever underestimate how important that is – the support from the business community for this very, very important change for us as a nation.
On the weekend, and I had a very dusty but fabulous weekend, I had the great joy of visiting Barunga. Barunga, everyone is a really small little community about 45 minutes out of Katherine.
But every year over the long weekend, it swells to four to five thousand people.
It's a brilliant celebration of Indigenous culture, sport, art and music.
It also is the home of the 1988 Barunga statement, which is displayed in the Australian Parliament.
And in the dust of Barunga, the same place that Bob Hawke committed to treaty, the four land councils of the NT, representing about 50,000 Aboriginal people from across the remote and regional communities of Northern Territory, issued the 2023 Barunga declaration. And this is really important.
The four land councils are Anindilyakwa, Tiwi, Northern and Central Land Councils.
They cover the whole of the NT and they issued the 2023 Barunga statement.
And I want to read it out tonight, because we heard Diane talk about the words in the Uluru statement, which is so important.
What happened In Barunga on the weekend was incredibly significant and the statement says this.
We, members of the four Northern Territory Aboriginal land councils, acknowledging our elders and old people, have gathered again at Barunga, the site of the historic Barunga Statement in 1988 and the Barunga Agreement in 2018, with pride in our own laws, cultures and ceremonies, looking to the future.
We, who have been dispossessed and subjected to punitive controls by governments, who have never ceded sovereignty over our lands and waters, resolve with one heart our determined support for the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
We must right the wrongs of the past and deal with the serious issues impacting First Nations peoples, empower First Nations peoples and unite our country.
We call for the recognition of First Nations peoples in our still young constitution by enshrining our Voice to the Parliament and executive government, never to be rendered silent with the stroke of a pen again.
We need to be heard and urge our fellow Australians to stand with us and vote 'yes' in the forthcoming referendum, for the sake of a better future for all of us.
That is the wish of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Recognition through a Voice is what Indigenous Australians want.
As the Tiwi Land Council chair, Gibson Farmer said.
Through the establishment of a Voice to Parliament, we, the Tiwi people, want to be at the table when discussions are made that affect our land, culture and future.
I urge all Australians to join us embracing this opportunity for positive change and vote Yes to ensure our voices are heard and respected when important decisions are being made that affect us.
The theme of tonight's discussion is unpacking opportunities of the Voice.
Now I know there are a few members of the referendum working group here who are joining us, and I particularly want to highlight Sean Gordon, who will join us on the panel discussion in a little while.
Sean has been on this journey for a number of years now with Uphold & Recognise and has made a invaluable contribution and I want to thank you here tonight, Sean, for that contribution.
The Voice referendum is one big opportunity to take Australia forward.
It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put your shoulder to the wheel of history and give it a push.
It is symbolic and it's practical because the Voice will be an independent advisory body selected by Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people.
It will give advice to the Parliament and to government on matters relating to indigenous people and communities.
It is an opportunity to ensure we are getting the best possible by advice from the ground.
It is a mechanism for us to listen so that we can make better policies and help close the gap because more of the same is just not good enough.
The people from across remote NT who I spoke to last week want to see positive change.
And I know that CEDA wants to make a practical difference to a more productive Australia with greater social and economic participation.
While we continue to see gaps in education and employment for our young people, we aren't just letting down these people that are being left behind – we are failing to fulfil the promise of us as a nation.
Just 68 per cent of Indigenous Australians have finished year 12 compared to 91 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.
And 58 per cent of young Indigenous Australians are fully employed in school or training, compared to 80 per cent of young Australians, non-Indigenous young people.
And these gaps are biggest in remote Australia, where life is very different.
One of the areas I see that Voice taking a leadership role in is remote economic development and employment.
Communities have been let down by the failed Community development programme.
It's been a scheme for almost a decade.
It didn't help people make the most of opportunities.
Communities know what they want. Libraries, mechanics and aged care services.
They want the skills to build and maintain houses and infrastructure.
But instead of listening to these ambitions, we have spent years and probably billions of dollars on poor policy outcomes and missed opportunities.
And this happened because there was no structural accountability for local communities.
No independent voice that could elevate their needs and aspirations in Canberra.
No voices say that local jobs and community projects are what our community needs.
Because the heart of the Voice is listening
And the chair of the Northern Land Council put it this way,
Aboriginal people are used to speaking and still being not heard.
That's why we need a Voice to Parliament.
Not to force people to do what we say. Nobody can do that. But just to hear what we have to say.
Just to listen.
Just to listen.
And while the Voice is about making a practical difference and the Yes campaign is articulating a positive vision for Australia's future.
The No campaign is doing neither of these things.
Friends, I fear that the no campaign are importing American-style Trump politics to Australia.
At the heart is a post-truth approach to politics.
Its aim is to polarise people. And its weapon of choice is misinformation.
No campaign outfit Fair Australia regularly posting on social media that are clearly false and taken out of context, for instance.
The No campaign using an image of a quote from Bob Hawke on social media as if to suggest that the former Prime Minister didn't support recognition of Indigenous Australians.
We know that Bob Hawke strongly supported recognition.
Bobby's wife Blanche, made it clear to me that Bob's greatest regret in his public life was not advancing the cause of indigenous recognition.
Another example, the No campaign was busted using social media tiles featuring a man who they claimed was Vincent Lingiari's grandson.
Turned out he wasn't.
Then it emerged that the man apparently had a camera shoved in front of him and he was given some lines to read out.
This is serious business.
Shadow Minister Hastie and Shadow Attorney Treasurer Taylor were caught misleading Australians by deliberately misquoting former High Court Judge Robert French and campaign during the parliamentary debate.
Absolutely reprehensible by both Andrew Hastie and Angus Taylor.
The Australian people are better than Trump politics from the No campaign.
The No campaign that has no solutions for the challenges that we face.
I believe that Australia is the best country in the world and we can be even greater if we take this opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our Constitution.
If we take the opportunity to say yes.
Friends, we have come too far as a nation on this journey of reconciliation to turn back now.
We have to go forward.
We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the Voice.
But achieving recognition depends on your voices.
You are in this room for a reason.
You're leaders and you have the ability to make change.
Winning this referendum would depend on thousands of conversations.
We need action now, so I ask you, when you leave here tonight, start a conversation.
Tell your friends, your family, your workplaces, tell anyone and everyone vote Yes for recognition and a Voice and say yes to a better future for this country.