Uncle Gary Murray is an activist who comes from a strong lineage of Victorian Aboriginal leaders. He is a Dhudhuroa, Yorta Yorta, Barapa Barapa, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wamba Wemba, Wergaia, Wiradjeri and Waywurru man.
He spoke to ABC News about his decision to vote Yes in the Voice referendum – a position he is taking because, he says, it is crucial that an Indigenous representative body be permanent.
There needs to be a permanent advisory body to prevent hostile governments from coming in and abolishing it. That’s the point, that’s the real problem. And everything else between the Yes and No campaigns has been mostly rhetoric.
I remember the successful referendum of 1967, which gave the Commonwealth the power to legislate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allowed them to be included in the census. I would have been 16. We went to Federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement Council (FCAATSI) meetings, and we all took the bus there when we were young teenagers.
Obviously the debates and issues have progressed at different levels, but there are parallels between 1967 and The Voice – it comes down to the same thing: doing the right thing by people. Get the right programs and services.
And the best way to solve problems like health, housing and the rest is at the local level. You have to make sure that organizations – and we have to take some responsibility as black people – operate in an inclusive way. That there is no nepotism, cronyism and corruption and that we ensure we get the results our citizens want at this local community level.
We still carry the baggage
Why did First Nations people fare so poorly in health, education and conservation, and why were so many children taken into out-of-home care? And we are still virtually landless. We were dispossessed, scattered all over Victoria, even New South Wales.
We have also been killed, by mass murder, by the disease that was brought here when the white people first came. All of these things are bad news, and we always seem to carry this baggage from generation to generation.
It’s time to step aside and tackle the real issues. We need to establish adequately resourced local, regional, state and national entities and ensure their continued existence so that we can achieve results at the local level. It’s really important ; we don’t just want to create an advisory group, we want something more.
We need better debate
Every political campaign I’ve seen in my life has always been about marching for justice, treaties, land rights and the rest. That hasn’t changed at all.
It’s always the same thing with The Voice, but in a different formulation: it’s about our dispossession and our dispersion, cultural isolation, loss of language and all the negative things. We have to solve this problem.
But I’ve never seen such bad things happen in a political debate – both sides overcame it. We need to learn to love each other again and create some unity, all of us – not just Black people, but non-Indigenous people too. I think we need to have a better debate and a better way of doing business.
I have 12 children, all adults, and there is only one who resists. A lot of people change their minds about how they will vote as they get more facts and see the debate and what’s in the media and the rest.
There are probably a lot of people who are undecided. I think there will be a lot of people voting yes last week.