An open letter to mob about after the referendum

12 Oct 2023

Luke Pearson writes of the Yes - No divide as a false binary. Instead we should take note of those who support Indigenous rights, and those who don’t.

After the Referendum: Luke open letter to mob

The campaigns are almost over, and soon we will either have a voice to parliament or we won’t. 

It’s important to remember though that the Voice is not an end, it’s a means. 

Whether it is successful or not, the goal remains the same. 

Indigenous Peoples have the right

Image Caption: Excerpt from Article 4 of UNDRIP

And even though there’s been lots of disagreements during the course of this referendum, the goal I am talking about is one that many of us share. 

The goal of an Indigenous future. Where our sovereignty is recognised and celebrated. Where we can enjoy our rights as Indigenous peoples.

Right now we are debating about a means to an end. 

Some people agree with the means but not the end. 

Some people agree with the ends and not the means. 

But regardless of whether we are planning to vote yes or no in the referendum, most of us are dreaming of an Indigenous future. A future where our rights as sovereign peoples are recognised and celebrated. 

We long for a day where the minimum standards guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are realised in full. 

There are 46 articles in that declaration, and I recommend you read them all, but here are just a few of them: 

Article 4: Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Article 8 1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

The Voice speaks directly to Article 19, that States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

There are some yes voters that hope that a voice will help to realise the other 45 articles in the declaration. 

There are also some Yes voters who agree with Article 19, but whose allyship would be severely tested if the Voice started advocating for some of the other articles in the declaration. 

Likewise, there are No voters who will vote No because they think we shouldn’t have any of the rights guaranteed us by the Declaration, and there are No voters who are voting No because they don’t think Article 19 will be enough on its own to effectively achieve the other 45. 

In that way it is important to remember that the voice is a means, not an end.

Know your rights

Image caption: Excerpt from Article 10 of the UNDRIP.

After the referendum, with or without a voice, the work of achieving our rights as Indigenous peoples will continue. 

And sure, right now we are split along the lines of yes or no, and there is a lot of hurt and anger… and confusion about how anyone could possibly be on the other side, but…

But soon enough we will go back to being split along the lines of those who support Indigenous rights and those who do not. 

We will be split against those who openly oppose our very existence as Indigenous peoples and it will bring us together, as a common enemy tends to do.

There will be a further split between those who would call themselves our allies, a split between those who will speak out, those who will speak over us, and those who will stay silent.

We will be split between those who see the ultimate goal as being our assimilation and absorption into the colony, and those who dream of Indigenous futures, where we once again are free to exercise our rights as Indigenous peoples, on our own terms, as sovereign peoples. 

So, this week, with what little time there is left before we have all voted, do what you need to do to fight for the means you believe, but don’t forget that once it is done not all of those on your side today will be on your side tomorrow, and that many of those you see as being on the other side today will be fighting alongside you again tomorrow. 

It is okay that we disagree on the means, so long as we never forget the goal we are fighting for. 

We fight for justice. 

We fight for our lands and our people. 

We fight for dignity, respect, and for truth.

Lastly, no matter which way it goes some mob are going to be devastated, but just remember it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning. We have a long road ahead regardless of the outcome and we need you all here with us. There will be tears and laughs and triumphs and challenges ahead…

So, remember, you only get one hill to die on in life, please don’t make it this one.

For the next week, just be kind to yourselves, and be kind to each other. And then, once it’s over, keep being kind to yourselves and to each other. 

We are stronger together. 

Peace and love to all!


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