Voting YES in Australia

Mikael Wagner
4 min readOct 9, 2023

Throughout my entire life, I have observed the harms of racism and discrimination in every country in the world. This year, I am committed to reading and learning the truth about history, especially my history. People from ethnic cultures continue to face unfair laws, racist name-calling, and discrimination in the areas of education, health, employment, and housing. Before moving to Australia, I wanted to believe it was the land of freedom for everyone, but my vision was blurred. As I educated myself about indigenous populations, I realised the inequality and profiling that thrives in America is like that of Australia. Initially, I thought African Americans were mistreated like the indigenous and Torres Strait Islander populations in Australia, but I was wrong, they are treated worse.

The more I learn the clearer it becomes that Native Americans were treated the same as Australia’s indigenous people. First Nations people are known to have occupied mainland Australia for at least 65,000 years. It is widely accepted that this predates the modern human settlement of Europe and the Americas. Yet, like the Native Americans, their land was stolen, and they were tortured, raped, and murdered. Like America, there is a strong conservative group that fights against equal rights for anyone who doesn’t have white skin. Now is the perfect time to send a strong message to Parliament to make the necessary changes that will provide a voice for the indigenous people. This can be done if you vote “YES” in the upcoming election.

So, what is the YES campaign? YES, means recognising First Nations peoples as the First People of Australia. Voting YES will alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a voice. Voting YES is about:

· Recognition. Recognising First Nations peoples in the Constitution and paying respect to 65,000 years of culture and tradition.

· Listening. Listening to advice from First Nations people about matters that affect their lives, so governments can make better decisions. Giving them a voice.

· Better Results. Making practical progress in First Nations people’s health, education, employment, and housing so people may have a better life.

If you vote YES, the Voice will be a committee of First Nations people who will give advice to the Parliament and Government on issues that affect their communities. It will include Indigenous Australians from every state and territory, the Torres Strait Islands, and representatives from the regions and remote communities. Members of the Voice will be chosen by their people in their local areas and serve for a fixed period.

Having a voice is all about advice. It’s essential that all governments listen to people about the issues that affect them the most. It seems like common sense or a no-brainer to me to be able to communicate with the people. Even in my public relations and marketing consultancy, listening helps to:

· Make better decisions.

· Achieve better results.

· Deliver better value for money.

· Better understanding of key issues affecting priority communities in the areas of infant mortality and health, education, housing, and employment.

· Helps to build trust and strong relationships.

· Saves money. When governments listen to the people, they always get better outcomes and use funding more effectively.

For many, many years governments with good intentions have spent billions of dollars trying to deal with the issues affecting communities. Governments have not achieved lasting improvements because they don’t listen to or converse with those affected the most. When you review governments around the world, especially in America, many of the problems will never be repaired until there is open communication. By voting YES, it will be an opportunity to make improvements in the areas of health services, education, employment, and housing.

Why we need it? There are big challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

· A life expectancy that is 8 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.

· Worse rates of disease and infant mortality.

· A suicide rate twice as high as other populations.

· Less opportunities for education and training.

Clearly, the current approach to finding solutions is not working. To close these gaps, find solutions and plan for the future, we need to listen to advice from Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander people about issues affecting their lives. Voting Yes means becoming reconciled with Australia’s past and moving to a better future for all. Australia has come a long way since their Constitution came into effect in 1901. Today, Australia celebrates Indigenous Australians and their contributions to the country. At the 1967 referendum, 90% of Australians voted Yes to changing the Constitution, so that First Nation peoples could be counted in the population like everyone else.

What I love most about Australia is their Compulsory Voting law. Everyone over 18 years of age is required to vote. In 1924, to improve the low rates of voter turnout, amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 were made. Compulsory voting was introduced, and this resulted in a dramatic increase in voter turnout at the following election. I wish that voting in America was required. So, few people, especially those from low-income and ethnic communities vote in the American elections. Many Americans don’t even consider it as their right.

The Voice is a committee that comes up with solutions to the unique challenges that Indigenous communities face and helps to make a real difference. For more information visit the YES Campaign.

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Mikael Wagner

Mikael Wagner is a communications project manager with focus on health promotion, public relations , marketing and focus group facilitation.