An Aboriginal academic has painted a bleak future for First Nations people if Australians don’t vote in favour of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese‘s proposal for a body in the constitution to advise on Aboriginal affairs is at the centre of political debate, with the Liberal Party last week announcing it will vote against the body.
During Monday night’s ABC Q&A debate, Indigenous theologian Anne Pattel-Gray, the head of the school of Indigenous studies at the University of Divinity, warned a ‘no’ majority at the forthcoming referendum would ‘kill a nation of people’.
After Scottish journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil shared his take on the Brexit referendum, program host Stan Grant brought Professor Pattel-Gray into the discussion.
Prof Pattel-Gray warned that the referendum, which all adult Australians will vote on later this year, ‘will determine the integrity’ of the country.
‘What Australia needs to be conscious of is that this is not a political agenda, this is a moral and ethical agenda and this will determine the integrity of Australia, because individually every person has a role to play,’ Professor Pattel-Gray said, prompting applause.
‘Whether they vote yes or whether they vote no is going to be to the individual’s question of integrity.’
Professor Pattel-Gray then delivered an impassioned plea, referencing the Uluru Statement from the Heart as to why Australians should vote yes.
‘Our people laid their soul bare to you and made themselves vulnerable in extending the hand to this nation and asking you to recognise us and to give us a voice,’ she continued.
‘This country has criminalised our children, they are highly incarcerated, we are even locking up 10-year-olds.
‘What a shame to this country.
‘And yet what you decide is going to determine our future.’
‘We shared with you our pain, but we also shared our hope, and if we don’t have that hope recognised, you are then damning us to hell, and you are going to kill a nation of people.’
University of Divinity head of the School of Indigenous Studies Anne Pattel-Gray (pictured) delivered a passionate plea on Q & A
Prof Pattel-Gray was referring to statistics that show almost half (49 per cent) of youth detainees in Australia are Indigenous, despite making up up just 5.8 per cent of the 10-17 age group.
Professor Pattel-Gray’s passionate plea for the Voice prompted a surprising admission from federal and NSW president of the Young Liberals Dimitry Chugg-Palmer, who is open supporting it but wants to see more detail.
He added ‘plenty’ of fellow Liberals will support the Voice, despite his party’s official Federal stance of opposition.
‘I think it is so important that we do have a respectful debate on this topic and we do work through the very important details that we need to see,’ Mr Chugg-Palmer explained.
‘We still haven’t seen legislation for what exactly the Voice is going to be.
‘Raising those questions and raising those doubts is not a way of trying to frustrate or stop it, it is about being honest and so that we know what it is we are voting for when we walk into the ballot box.
‘I want to see us reconcile with First Australians.
‘I think it is the right thing to give them a say on decisions that affect them, that is a fundamentally Liberal principle.’
Anthony Albanese’s proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament continues to divide Australia
It comes after Mr Albanese hinted some of the biggest names in Australian sport could be part of the team pushing for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
‘I know from speaking to a number of NRL and AFL players, both past and present, that they will be active in putting their views in support of constitutional recognition,’ Mr Albanese told Sky News on Sunday.
‘They’ve all been very supportive of Indigenous recognition for a long period of time.
‘And I expect that not just them but Tennis Australia have been supportive. Cricket Australia, all of the sporting codes.’
Athletics legend Cathy Freeman has long been a supporter of the Yes vote while AFL great Adam Goodes has been working behind the scenes to build support.