Friends of the Earth on the Voice to Parliament referendum

August 30, 2023
FOEA Voice Referendum statement graphic
Image: Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth published the following statement on July 21.

* * *

This statement clarifies our position on the Voice, as the Referendum approaches and more groups take public stances on it.

We acknowledge the current public debate over the proposed Voice to Parliament, and begin by saying that we hold the deepest compassion and respect for First Nations Peoples at this sensitive and difficult time where the struggle for self determination is under question in the public eye.

This statement articulates our position. While it is our agreed-upon position as an organisation, Friends of the Earth Australia member groups and projects have autonomy to engage in the Referendum lead-up as they see appropriate, because we are a federation of aligned, autonomous groups. 

Friends of the Earth has always supported sovereignty and self determination for First Nations Peoples of this land.

On this land and across the globe, we will always seek to deeply listen to the demands of First Nations Peoples and advocate for recognition of Indigenous sovereignty. We will always hold First Nations justice at the foundations of our work, guiding our intention to care for and love one another, the Earth and lands we live on. There can be no climate justice without First Nations justice.

As the Referendum approaches, we see diverse stances articulated which demonstrate the complex meanings of the Voice, and acknowledge that there are valid arguments both for the Blak/progressive “No” and the “Yes” votes.

We respect everyone whose campaigning efforts come from a place of good faith and desire to strengthen power and justice for First Nations Peoples.

We wholeheartedly stand against the racist and colonial structural voices which are campaigning for a “No” vote to further repress and disempower First Nations Peoples.

After much discussion and reflection, Friends of the Earth has come to the decision that we do not feel comfortable to add our weight to either the “Yes” or Blak/progressive “No” campaigns.

This position reflects the diversity of views held within our organisation, especially by the First Nations people we work with and stand in solidarity with.

We understand that some will find this disappointing, however we ask that our position is honoured and respected for the nuanced reasoning that informs it.

We support the bravery and courage First Nations Peoples are yet again showing as they seek justice and the right to self-determination.

The differing First Nations perspectives on the Voice should be listened to with respect and humility by non-Indigenous people. We encourage people to continue listening openly, and come voting time, make a decision from the heart that is informed by justice-centred values.

Friends of the Earth has always advocated for real, material, system change for First Nations communities.

We acknowledge that a “Yes” to the Voice is not a simple remedy to the centuries of oppression and violence inflicted on First Nations Peoples by the colonial state.

Struggles for justice — including for Treaty; Sovereignty; self-determination of communities; rejecting community intervention and income management; land back and land management; funding communities not prisons (and connected fights to stop Blak deaths in custody, raise the age of criminal responsibility and get young people out of detention); preserving First Nations languages and culture; and keeping children on country and with their families — are long-waged battles against the colonial state by First Nations Peoples that will continue after the Voice Referendum.

The months leading up to the Referendum will see heightened national attention on First Nations Peoples.

As we will not be campaigning for either voting option: we will use our platforms and community microphones to amplify the diversity of struggles for justice that are being by First Nations Peoples.

We will direct our members and broader communities to work they can support by donating their time, money and other resources. We will also examine how our own campaigns can more strongly add weight to First Nations justice demands.

There is no climate justice without First Nations justice.

Now is a time for non-Indigenous people to learn more about the long-held demands for justice mentioned above, and commit to supporting these demands beyond the course of the Referendum.

The information and resources we will share in coming months are to get people thinking about how their support for First Nations justice can continue beyond this year, and inform their existing work, communities and individual lives. 

Always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

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