National Reconciliation Week 2023 is particularly unique. It falls during a historic year, in which Australians are being asked to vote in a referendum to recognise First Peoples.
In this spirit, Swinburne University of Technology has reaffirmed its support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution.
Swinburne has a strong and demonstrated commitment to actively driving reconciliation and working with Indigenous communities to create positive impact.
Swinburne’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Engagement and proud Wiradjuri man, Professor John Evans, says the proposed Voice to Parliament is an important national reform.
“It marks a significant point in Australia’s maturation as a country looking to be more just and to strengthen its understanding of its Indigenous population,” he says.
“First Nations peoples have a right to expect that their knowledge and experiences are protected by and reflected in policies and programs that govern and determine their futures. This has never been done before and is a key feature of the Voice.
“We welcome this opportunity to unite to create a better future for all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – and believe it is a critical moment for our community to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and representation,” Professor Evans says.
An ‘important start’ for improving outcomes
Professor Evans emphasises the vital importance of maintaining ongoing dialogue to ensure the Voice functions as intended.
“While the Voice is an important national reform, it will not be perfect to start with. Nothing is perfect, and the pursuit of perfection often prevents us from doing anything.
“There will need to be years of discussion and constant recalibration to make sure the Voice is serving its purpose,” he said.
“But it is an important start to improving outcomes for Australia’s Indigenous population and will be a significant improvement on what we have at the moment.”
Professor Evans offers the following advice to individuals contemplating the decision ahead.
“My advice to people would be to not get caught up in the politics or be distracted by perfection. Look at the Voice for what it is and be critical about how it can be further improved to help our Indigenous population,” he said.
“By maintaining this dialogue, we can ensure that the Voice stays relevant and is in the best interest of our people for generations to come.”
Conscious of varying perspectives within the community, Professor Evans asserts the need for progress.
“While we know there are a range of views on the proposal within our community, we believe that this is an important step forward for our country,” he said.
“We welcome an informed and respectful debate, but support a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution, as an organisation that is committed to leadership on reconciliation.”
Swinburne was the first Australian university to achieve ‘Elevate’ status from Reconciliation Australia for its Reconciliation Action Plan and is committed to advancing reconciliation by embedding self-determination, cultural safety and Indigenous knowledges across the university.