Panel including Minister Linda Burney addresses the Philanthropy Australia membership about the Voice referendum

Thu, 6 Apr 2023

The Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, provided an update to Philanthropy Australia members regarding the referendum on constitutional recognition through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. 

Taking place on Wednesday 5 April 2023 on Gadigal Land/Sydney and online, the Minister was joined with Professor Megan Davis (Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW and a Professor of Law, UNSW Law, Cobble Cobble woman), Rachel Perkins (Co-Chair, Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, Arrernte and Kalkadoon woman) and Sally Scales (Chairperson of the APY Executive Board and Pitjantjatjara woman). 

L-R Philanthropy Australia CEO Jack Heath, The Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, Rachel Perkins and Sally Scales. Professor Megan Davis joined the panel via Zoom.  

“This is about you and your conscience. There will not be a bunch of politicians in that polling booth with you. It’ll just be you. And you will do the right thing,” said Minister Burney, also warning that the upcoming referendum should not be used as a political football: “This is not about politicians. It’s about the Australian people. It’s not a political football that has constantly been used.” 

Minster Burney also encouraged attendees to also think about international implications for how Australia is perceived: “Could you imagine what the rest of the world will think of us if we say no? We’ll appear as a backward-looking country unable to make a magnanimous decision.” 

Professor Megan Davis spoke about moral authority of the Yes campaign, anchoring the conversation back to the Uluru Statement so Australians can see that it comes from First Nations people, and that it enjoys their broad support: “It’s anti-elite, anti- bureaucratic mechanism that is designed to bring voice to the people that don’t always get to talk.” 

Davis says national unity will also be a critical step of the campaign: “Our work is to provide the environment in which Australians see that voting yes, is a patriotic celebration of the nation, who’s ready to take this important step in terms of reconciliation.” 

Rachel Perkins sees a Yes vote in the Voice Referendum as a unifying moment that will “… build the architecture for future empowerment” while noting that philanthropic partners have been strong advocates for some time and understand this level of importance. 

“I am completely inspired by what philanthropy did around the Equal Marriage campaign and how particularly the Snow Family [Foundation] changed that situation in our country for the better. We can do that together for Indigenous people and bring this moment of unity.  We’re having to raise more money …  our targets are significantly higher than marriage equality.” 

“We know there is enormous goodwill because of 30 years of reconciliation movement in the community for this issue. So, we are going to have to change this country together.” 

Sally Scales shared her personal experience with disempowerment and how a Yes vote will be a history-changing event for future Indigenous people: “At the end of the day, it’s about how you and how you and your family are going to vote. And if you’re going to be a part of this change for the betterment of all our communities and the next generation and the generation that is coming.” 

Philanthropy Australia CEO Jack Heath concluded the event by encouraging members to make their interest known to Philanthropy Australia as there will be an additional statement next week. 

A recording of the panel session will be available to Philanthropy members next week through Philanthropy Weekly and the Better Giving Hub. 

Thank you to Bloomberg for hosting this event.