In an opinion piece for The Greek Herald, Yiorgos Konstandinomanolakis shares his thoughts on the Indigenous Voice to Federal Parliament and the upcoming referendum on October 14.
I came to Australia many years ago but I have never lost my Greek identity. I am proud of my Greek heritage and I am proud of this country. I have worked hard and Australia has been good to me. I am sure that my children and my grandchildren and each generation that follows will have better lives.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Indigenous Australians who were here many thousands of years before any of us arrived.
It has not always been easy for me and for many migrants. I know what it is like to experience prejudice and to face barriers because of my nationality.
But I was never told by the Government where I could live, or who I could marry. Nobody stopped me from owning a business or buying land or even going to the local swimming pool or the cinema because of my race or skin colour.
And nobody took my children from me and sent them out to work for strangers where they were often abused.
This is what happened to Indigenous people for many, many years, and it was still happening during my lifetime and yours. The damage this caused is the main reason why many Indigenous people have poor health, education and employment levels.
Governments alone cannot fix this problem. They need to have Indigenous people involved in creating programs and services that work best for them. Indigenous people living in their own communities know what works.
In the past there have been advisory committees that have been able to give the right advice to governments and things began to improve.
But each time a government with a different political viewpoint came to power the committees were abandoned and things went back to the way they were before for Indigenous people.
We need to change this situation and we can.
What Indigenous people are asking for now, and what we will vote for at the Referendum on October 14, is very simple.
First: the right to be recognised in the Australian Constitution as the First people of Australia. This is a fact. They are the first Australians.
Second: an Advisory Committee (a Voice) to be created that cannot be removed by different governments because of their political agendas. This committee is not going to affect me in my daily life. It doesn’t have power to make laws or increase taxes or anything else. But it can offer clear advice to government when it makes decisions about programs to improve the lives of Indigenous people and their children’s futures. That is all it is.
All the other things we are hearing are rumours to confuse us and to make us afraid.
This referendum should not be about politics – it should be about human decency and the right for each of us to live a healthy productive life.
For me it is very clear. I want my country to be better – not just for my children and grandchildren – but for everyone’s. That is why I am voting yes on October 14. We can and we must do better.