Advocates for the Voice to Parliament have made the case for the constitutional change in a series of conversations with CEDA members across the country.
Representatives for the Uluru Youth Dialogue, the Uluru Convention and Reconciliation Australia were among the speakers who took to the CEDA stage to speak about the Voice, setting out how it would improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Kishaya Delaney, who is an Uluru Youth Delegate to the Regional Dialogues for the Uluru Convention, pointed to the long history of First Nations people seeking representation.
“The oldest Aboriginal protest organisation in NSW, which was the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association, back in 1923 made a manifesto to the New South Wales government where they asked for a body made up of First Nations people to be able to speak to the government on matters relating to First Nations people,” Ms Delaney said.
She explained that the idea of the contemporary Voice came from a long consultation process around the country and is a necessary step to improving First Nations outcomes.
“When we're talking about the Voice, we're talking about it as the first in a sequence of reforms, and we're talking about it as the first of voice, treaty and truth,” Ms Delaney said.
“Realistically, if the voice referendum fails, the Government isn't going to turn around and say ‘Why don't we try a treaty instead?’
“The idea of trying to negotiate a treaty without a representative body that can communicate and organise First Nations people collectively would be really difficult.”
Geoff Scott from the Uluru Dialogue highlighted the need to centre First Nations people in the process of electing representatives to the Voice.
“We've got to fight hard when they get to the legislative phase about ensuring this independent process for people to pick their own representatives – that they can retain their own identity and maintain their own future,” Mr Scott said.
Ms Delaney also spoke about the extent to which empowering communities can improve outcomes across the board.
“In the US, they've done studies that have shown that when communities have better control over their health, their housing, their policy decisions, that leads to the community thriving and youth suicide rates go right down,” she said.
“Youth suicide is a huge problem in First Nations communities because people just feel trapped and helpless.
“I really do feel like that sense of coming together and acceptance will be such a unifying moment for Blak kids, but also for non-Indigenous people more generally.”
The speakers emphasised the importance of the referendum this year.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. It won’t come again,” said Mr Scott.