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Always Was, Always Will Be

We don’t need the result of a referendum to tell us this Always Was, and Always Will Be Aboriginal land. The land of our Ancestors – the Custodians of over 65,000 years.

We voted yes. So did millions of Australians. Together we sought the constitutional recognition we deserve. We fought for a voice to parliament so that we can have a say on the matters that impact our lives.

We’ve been saying for many decades that we want Governments to listen to us before making decisions about us. More than 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people supported the proposal for a Voice to Parliament. We know Australians want to hear what we have to say, but with not enough votes to be successful in this referendum, it’s clear most voters weren’t persuaded that enshrining the Voice in the Constitution was the way to remove the barriers that confront First Nations People.

So today, the answer to the question of change at the highest level is no. And while the hurt and disappointment are real, we know ‘no’ – we live in ‘no’. And just like it’s never stopped us before, neither will it now. Our mob are strong, proud and resilient and we will wrap our arms around each other at this time.

The lead up to the referendum has been incredibly trying. Our mob have borne the brunt of a wave of negative and ignorant dialogue and sentiments. This has been challenging and hurtful beyond words.

However, in what has been a wave of racism, we choose to see the ocean of support.

We thank the community who voted in support of this change – both mob and our non-Aboriginal allies. We saw, heard and felt the support that you provided in campaigning for this change. We have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of YES23 volunteers, supporters and advocates who have come together to campaign for this change – from door knocking, to telephoning, to events, letter writing and rallying. We’ve seen an extraordinary range of allies come from places we weren’t even looking, to show their support, solidarity and hope for a better future together.

We choose to see that, and to continue to align with this support, as we always have, to work, advocate and fight for better outcomes for First Peoples. As an ACCHO, we see the gains we are making every day through self-determination and strengths-based decision making at a local level. Services in any sector that are owned, designed and run by our mob have the best outcomes for First Peoples. This is the work we have always done and will continue to do. We will live by YES, finding ways every day for our people to experience yes. Yes to listening, yes to access to high quality care and services, yes to closing the gap in health and other outcomes.

In Victoria, we are fortunate to already be seeing the benefits of a Voice-like body – the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. An assembly that is in the process of appointing the panel that will negotiate Victoria’s Treaty with the State Government. There is so much work already achieved and continuing on the Truth-Telling process through the Yoorrook Justice Commission. We look forward to Victoria leading the way for national Treaty and Truth-Telling processes.

Despite the heartbreak of the weekend’s outcome, First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing will continue to provide the very best health care and services we can to our communities and continue to lead and unite from a place of solidarity, optimism and hope for the future.

For media enquires:

Karinda Taylor

Chief Executive Officer

0477 622 210

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