19 September 2023

Aunty Pat Anderson, Referendum Council co-chair, to visit Young and Boorowa for the Voice

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Aunty Pat Anderson AO will visit Boorowa and Young for information sessions on the Voice referendum. Photo: Supplied.

One of Australia’s most senior Aboriginal leaders, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, will visit Young and Boorowa on Sunday (24 September) for information sessions about the Voice referendum.

She’ll be joined by local resident, Wiradjuri man and campaigner James Blackwell, who has driven across much of regional NSW and Victoria talking to regional people about the Voice, what it will mean for Australia – and what it won’t mean.

“I’ve been everywhere from Deniliquin to Wangaratta. I’m in Tumut this week and we’ve had a strong response to people who want to know more and inform themselves before they vote,” James says.

“If people have made up their minds, we probably won’t see them, but we know there are a lot of people out there who are still uncertain about which way to go.”

The events in Boorowa and Young will be in a town hall format, beginning with a presentation by Aunty Pat, followed by a facilitated Q&A session.

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“Aunty Pat is a remarkable leader,” James says of the human rights advocate and longtime health administrator.

“She is in the middle of a national speaking tour – she’ll actually be flying to Hobart the next day – so we are pretty lucky to have her on the South West Slopes, in our communities.”

An Alyawarre woman from the Northern Territory, Pat Anderson has advocated for improved health, educational, and protection outcomes for Indigenous Australian children for decades. With a group of others, she established Australia’s first Aboriginal Medical Service.

She addressed the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations and in 2007, co-authored the groundbreaking Little Children Are Sacred report on child abuse in the Northern Territory.

Aunty Pat co-chaired the Referendum Council, which consulted widely across Indigenous Australia before setting in motion the process that delivered the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“I’m a passionate advocate for folks knowing about this reform,” James says. “I live in Boorowa and I think whether people vote yes or no, they should do so from an informed perspective.

“We’ve had a great response around the Canberra region in terms of people being willing to ask questions and listen respectfully. There’s the occasional one who wants to take the microphone and deliver a monologue, but overwhelmingly people are giving us the time to hear us and engage in debate.

“Some may not be convinced and that’s fine, but others have learned something by approaching this with a respectful and open mind.”

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James is clear these events are primarily intended to inform people, with information and perspectives from someone who has been a key figure in this movement for years.

“Aunty Pat was appointed to chair the Referendum Council by former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and she led the consultation process with Aboriginal people around Australia, so she knows what happened,” he says.

“She knows the Uluru Statement and its history intimately and knows what the constitutional process means.

“Every vote counts in this referendum, every person matters, and we are not taking any communities for granted.”

The event in Young takes place on Sunday, 24 September, at the Marie McCormick Centre, 129 Main St, from 10 am to 12 pm. Aunty Pat and James will be in Boorowa on the same day at the Boorowa Ex-Services and Citizens Club in Pudman St from 2 – 4 pm.

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Sorry Pat. It’s a NO from me. I’m not going to be conned by the vibe or guilt feelings to approve this most dangerous and racist permanent division of Australia on racial grounds.

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