Australian climate movement: ‘Yes’ to the Voice

In an open letter signed by 43 climate organisations, Centre for Climate Safety included, representing more than two million Australians, the climate movement has come out in support of writing ‘Yes’ for the Referendum, as a long-standing commitment to climate and first nations justice.

Why the Voice will be good for the climate

By Byron Fay, Executive Director, Climate 200

  1. It will strengthen the hand of Indigenous communities fighting against fossil fuel expansion

Indigenous communities around the country are on the frontlines of the fight against expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

From the Wangan and Jagalingou people in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, who led a powerful campaign against the Adani Carmichael coal mine, to Tiwi Islander groups who led a legal challenge against Santos’ gas drilling off the coast of northern Australia – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are stepping up to resist projects that are bad of our climate and bad for country.

By giving communities like these stronger avenues to have their voices heard and rights respected, a Voice to Parliament will help elevate their concerns to the highest levels of government.

  1. It will increase awareness of the role Indigenous knowledge and practices can make to emissions reductions, adaptation, and biodiversity conservation.

Indigenous traditional knowledge and practices can make a major contribution to climate adaptation and emissions reduction.

There are great examples of this across northern Australia, where Indigenous ranger groups are using the re-introduction of traditional fire management practices to reduce emissions and enhance biodiversity.

Before joining Climate 200, I had the privilege of working with many of the Indigenous ranger groups who are rolling out these projects. I saw first hand how they are reducing the scale and intensity of late dry-season bushfires (and hence emissions) by proactively undertaking low-intensity, early-dry seasons traditional burns.

Further, these practices protect and improve biodiversity, giving trees, plants and animals a better opportunity to survive, while also providing much-needed employment opportunities to remote Indigenous communities.

The Voice will provide a strong platform for knowledge like this to be better factored into federal policy making and budget decisions.

  1. Our clean energy transition will be stronger, faster, and fairer with the active and respectful consultation of Traditional Owners

The race to turn Australia into a clean energy superpower presents big opportunities. But it also presented challenges for the people living on the lands on which our renewable energy infrastructure will be built and critical minerals will be mined.

The Voice will ensure our fight for a better future is one that respects and includes the people most impacted by this transition. Realising this vision requires respecting and protecting local environments and communities, and ensuring they share in the profits. This begins with meaningful consultation, respectful listening and dialogue.

  1. It will put ‘caring for country’ into the Parliament’s discussions

Sustainability, embodied in the concepts of caring for ‘country’ and ‘mother earth’, is at the core of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. The Voice will give Indigenous Australians an opportunity to bring these valuable perspectives into the Parliament’s discussions, and provide an important counterweight to the fossil fuel lobby that has distorted our democracy and led us to the brink of climate catastrophe.

This referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a collective step forward on climate action and reconciliation.

I’m so grateful to the 238 individuals who have already contributed to our dedicated Voice Fund, which is already helping local community groups to turbo-charge their campaigns.

We’ve received over a dozen applications already, with more still coming in. Can you chip in to help us to help them?

As with all of our campaigns, 100% of the donations we receive through our website will go directly to supporting local groups campaigning on the ground for the Voice.

Byron Fay
Executive Director, Climate 200

Larissa Baldwin-Roberts, CEO GetUp and Widjabul Wia-bal woman said:
“First Nations people are on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction and climate change but the solutions to these issues exist in our communities. When we listen to our elders, when we support and work with Indigenous rangers – these are examples of our adaptive capacity and effectiveness in applying First Nations knowledge to respond to climate challenges.

“If we write ‘Yes’ we can give First Nations communities greater decision-making authority and create transformative change that centres our strength and solutions in climate policy across the country, protecting our country, the climate and generations to come. 

“​​There is no climate justice without First Nations justice.”

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said:
“Across this great continent, First Nations people are the first experts in climate solutions. Writing Yes in the referendum is a way to say that we want to hear the wisdom and expertise of the oldest living culture on earth, whose leadership is essential for better environment and climate outcomes. 

“First Nations communities are also on the frontline of climate impacts and the fight against fossil fuels, but do not have an equal say in policies that affect them. We know that policies are more effective when those who are affected by them have a voice, and a powerful ‘Yes’ vote will achieve just that.”

Kelly O’Shanassy, ACF’s CEO said:
“Rightful recognition of, and genuine reconciliation with, First Nations Peoples is fundamental to protecting nature in Australia.

“As we confront the urgent climate and nature crises, we have much to learn from listening to the country’s original, enduring custodians.”

Read ACF’s statement on the Voice

→ Read The Uluru Statement from the heart

“With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”

~ Excerpt of The Uluru Statements from the heart

Queenscliffe Climate Action posted this message on Instagram:

“A really important discussion took place in the Borough yesterday on the Voice to Parliament. Pictured here is Wadawurrung woman Corinna Eccles in front of a slide from Professor Cheryl Saunders AO – a constitutional law expert from the University of Melbourne.

Professor Saunders clearly articulated the exact proposed changes to the constitution and what they mean. @unimelb has put out a swag of Voice facts as short clips, easily found with a Google search if you’re keen to get your head around the proposed changes and why we need them.

Why is QCAN posting about this? Because working in partnership with @wadawurrung Traditional Owners is crucial to protect and conserve our natural environment as we face increasing climate change impacts.”

#thevoicetoparliament #ulurustatement

The Climate Council on 22 August 2022:

Why we’re supporting Yes

Australia is home to the oldest continuous living culture on Earth. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia are strong, proud and resilient. They have been caring for Country for millennia, and prior to colonisation flourished sustainably on this land and surrounding seas for generations. 

But First Nations people are not recognised in our Constitution, and do not have an adequate and permanent voice over important matters that affect their lives. This includes climate change: how we prepare for and respond to its consequences, as well as the solutions we need to rapidly scale up, which should be informed by First Nations knowledge.

Laws and policies are more effective when those affected by them have a say on how they are designed. By writing Yes at the referendum, we can help ensure that First Nations people are better represented and listened to on a range of critical issues that improve outcomes around health, life expectancy, education and employment.

This referendum is an opportunity for all Australians to come together, listen, and take a vital step forward as a nation. By voting Yes, we can build support for solutions that First Nations people have long campaigned for. 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart
Australia has been considering constitutional recognition of our First peoples for many years. Through the Uluru Statement from the Heart – the largest consensus of First Nations people on a proposal for substantive recognition – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples asked that this recognition comes through a Voice to Parliament, which will give advice on laws and policies that affect their communities.

The Climate Council supports the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We are proud to have joined Allies for Uluru – a coalition of more than 200 community, non-government and corporate organisations from across the country that have come together in support of Voice, Treaty, Truth. 

We are also committed to better supporting the rights, strengths and leadership of First Nations people now, and into the future. This week, the Climate Council will be using its social media platforms to share stories of First Nations strength, leadership and vision for the future – in their own words. Check out the links below to learn more about how you can get involved and amplify the support for writing Yes. 

A Yes vote is an important opportunity to move forward as a nation. This is a chance for all of us to learn about and honour the rights, history and strengths of First Nations people. 

In solidarity,

Amanda McKenzie, Prof. Tim Flannery and the Climate Council Team
Find resources to help grow support for Yes via Allies for Uluru.

Have questions about the Uluru Statement from the Heart? Check out the FAQs.

Want to get involved in the Yes23 campaign? Head to the Yes23 website, and check out their upcoming events here.

Register to attend a session on the latest research into shifting the public narrative to support First Nations justice and self-determination. Visit the Passing the Message Stick website.Find out more about First Nations-led organisations that are working to protect Country, secure a safe climate and build a better, brighter future for us all.

Join the conversation on the Climate Council’s social media channels now: InstagramFacebookX (Twitter)Threads
Newsletter from the Climate Council on 22 August 2023

“Australians already have a voice, it’s called an election and it happens every three years. I don’t think we should be giving extra privileges or rights or representations to parliament based on somebody’s ethnicity, I think that’s wrong, we fought very hard against racism for a very long time. You don’t do it by enshrining what I think is racism into our Constitution, so that some woke, leftie, soy-latte-drinking activist in Melbourne or Sydney, riding their crappy little pushbikes to work with their soy latte’s in their hands, feel better about themselves.”
~ Ralph Babet, Member of Parliament, United Australia Party