We have just been down to vote in the referendum about altering the Australian Constitution to insert the following lines:
“Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
- there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
- the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.”1
It was about 11 am when we got to the voting station, in the local community hall, which is about a 10 minute walk from our home of some 31+ years. On the way we met some neighbours who had recently returned from a holiday in northern Western Australia and we chatted about their holiday and the problems they had with Qantas, which cancelled their flight at short notice. We hoped that it might improve, now that its former CEO Alan Joyce is gone. While we chatted, a former colleague of mine walked past and as we were involved in a conversation he simply got as brief ‘hello, how are you’, and he replied as he went on.
We got down to the voting station and passed by a YES volunteer, who asked ‘do you want one of these’ while holding out a leaflet, presumably telling us why we should vote YES. We waved her away with ‘No, we don’t need one; we will be voting YES’. She smiled. As we got to the door, a person wearing an Australian Electoral Commission bib welcomed us and asked; ‘are you voting together’. We said ‘yes’ and she replied ‘stand in line 4’ which we did. There were three couples in front of us and we had to wait about 5 minutes before we were ticked off the electoral roll and were given our ballot papers and pencils. While waiting in the queue, I couldn’t help looking at other people and wondering how they were going to vote. It would be impossible to pick, I suspect. After placing our ballots in the ballot box and returning our pencils to the ‘dirty pencil’ box (the pencils are cleaned and handed out again after every use; a Covid-19 measure), we walked out the door towards the shopping centre and passed another YES volunteer. Because we were leaving the station, she didn’t ask us if we needed a leaflet, but as she looked at us, I gave her a thumbs up, and she smiled.
While this all seems very mundane and commonplace, as voting often is in Canberra, there are many places in the world where such activities are either dangerous, not permitted, or are a façade run by dictatorial governments who will never allow anyone to take away their power. There are people in Australia who would like such a dictatorial government here, but most of them seem to be either fascists or religious nutters. With the latter, it is borne of desperation because they can see their power and influence wane before their eyes as people leave religion in droves. With the former; my parent’s generation spent several years of their lives fighting fascists, and several of their relatives and friends were killed doing so, and nobody should ever have to fight that same war again.