YOUR VOICE: Yes, It’s A Small Measure With Big Benefits | Marque Lawyers


New Matilda’s coverage of the Voice referendum continues daily, until October 14, 2023. Part of that coverage includes publishing a wide diversity of opinions from individuals and organisations about their views on the referendum. Here, Marque Lawyers (the folks who’ve kept New Matilda out of jail… with the exception of that incident in Israel) weighs in with its two cents worth. If you want to publish your view, click here to email us a submission.

The ‘Yes’ posters are going up in the windows of our office this week, physically adding our collective voice to the call that this moment be firmly grasped.

Will it? We don’t know; perhaps not. Maybe Australia will say No, it’s definitive answer to the offer made by the Uluru Statement, and if that’s the answer then we as a nation will have to live with it and what it says about us.

We hope it doesn’t come to that. As lawyers, we have thought and talked through all of the arguments and concerns. We are comfortable that the advocated risks are immaterial; more importantly, we see why this is not just uncontroversial as a constitutional reform, but needed.

Race is in Australia’s constitution. It always has been. Since 1967’s referendum, First Nations people have been counted as humans – that was the only positive change it made. The historical facts underpinning the constitution’s establishment remain unchanged. The land on which we all live was taken from its original owners by acts of violent acquisition, without negotiation, treaty or compensation.

When it came to federating the various colonies into a single nation in 1901, First Nations people were not consulted or even discussed, other than through a common consensus that they were in the process of dying out anyway.

Australia was thus created and has been maintained on a racist lie, which the law treated for a long time as a legal fiction called terra nullius but which continues with the conceit that the offences of dispossession and destruction of ancient culture were mere pragmatic expedients at the time and don’t matter now.

The Uluru Statement was an act of generosity, an open-handed invitation to a process of healing and reconciliation. After long and comprehensive consideration, it represents what First Nations people are asking all of us to do (with more than 80 per cent support among First Nations people themselves). The Voice is an essential first step. It will do no harm, upset no balance apart from the balance of privilege which needs to be changed.

Giving a voice to the dispossessed, disadvantaged and wounded descendants of the victims of colonisation is a small measure with profound benefits. Saying no to the request now in front of us would be an act of denial that would resonate equally deeply and for all time.

We embrace the call to walk together on this journey. We say Yes.

If you are interested in having a chat with us about the referendum, we’d love to hear from you. Our partner Kiera Peacock is providing legal support to the Yes23 campaign.

* ED’S NOTE: Marque Lawyers has been providing New Matilda with pro bono legal assistance for  years. Please support the folk that support us.

Marque Lawyers does law differently. They also file a semi-regular column for New Matilda on all things legal. And they also happen to be Sydney's most dynamic, ethical and effective law firm. So says New Matilda, and we should know because we continue to publish NOT from prison, in large part because of the advocacy and advice we receive from the team at Marque. If you're looking for a law firm that doesn't look or act like a law firm, and you want to support a firm that supports independent media, go to Marque, go directly to Marque.