19 July 2023

In touch with the past for a better future, Jennie is Voicing the referendum 'Yes' case

| John Thistleton
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Woman leaning on tree

At her favourite scarred tree at Goulburn TAFE College carpark, Ngunnawal woman Jennie Gordon points out there are many such links to her people’s past around Goulburn. Photo: John Thistleton.

Centuries-old eucalyptus trees and the surrounding landscape in Goulburn hold reminders of local First Nations people.

Among these reminders are three scarred trees on the hills now occupied by Goulburn TAFE College, Trinity Catholic College and Slocombe Street.

Ngunnawal woman and public officer of the Goulburn Mulwaree Aboriginal Community, Jennie Gordon, says many of her elders camped up along these areas.

“There are good freshwater creeks down through there. Lots of them are now covered by culverts and drains,” Ms Gordon said.

“The TAFE college tree has a really significant shield cut from it. Within a block of there, from another good tree, a gunya or shelter has been made from the bark.”

Despite these and many more reminders of First Nations people across the country and how they lived, the Australian constitution does not recognise them. Whether the constitution should will be put to the people later this year with the Australian Indigenous Voice referendum.

“We are voting to change the Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islander people as people in the constitution who were here forever,” Ms Gordon said.

“That group of people should be enabled with a voice to parliament.

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“The only other place Aboriginal people are recognised is in Section 51.26 of the constitution. That is used by the government for making rules about Aboriginal people.”

Goulburn people will have an opportunity next week to hear directly from Ms Gordon about the Voice referendum to be held later this year. She was a delegate to the meeting six years ago when First Nations people from all around Australia came together to produce the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to which she is a signatory.

The Uluru Statement calls for a First Nations Voice to be written into the Australian constitution as a permanent guarantee that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be able to make representations to the federal parliament and government on matters affecting them.

At a public meeting hosted by The Goulburn Group (TGG) at the Goulburn Workers Club, Ms Gordon will draw on her extensive knowledge of the history of Indigenous people in the area.

She will speak about what the Voice means to her, how she believes it would make a difference to First Nations people and how those who support a Yes vote can best support the cause. She also will answer questions about the referendum.

“The referendum is about a change to the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of Australian society to ensure that they have a Voice to Parliament,” she said.

TGG president Urs Walterlin said it was a great opportunity for voters to hear firsthand from a senior First Nations representative about the Voice.

“A lot of misinformation has been circulated over the last few months by the opponents,” he said. “This has led to significant confusion in the Australian community.

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“If you are undecided or leaning towards a No vote, come and listen to what she has to say,” Mr Walterlin said.

“For those who support a Yes vote, Jennie will share information about how best to promote the cause.”

Voting in the referendum is compulsory because it involves a proposed change to our founding document, the Constitution.

Voters will be asked to answer Yes or No to the following question: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

If approved, the new section of the constitution would say the Voice “may make representations” to the parliament and the government, with parliament retaining the right to make decisions. The event on 26 July starts at 7 pm and is free. Bookings can be made through the Eventbrite website.

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