How to have a conversation with someone voting 'no' to the Voice.

A reckoning is coming. And it's in the form of a referendum.

Many see the vote as a resounding opportunity to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution, and work towards closing the gap.

To some, the Voice is a step in the right direction. Others have a lack of trust in the government and what they are promising to achieve, given past histories. 

Then there's another group of people. This group don't make up the entire 'no' vote, but they certainly are the loudest, and perhaps the most dogged in their opinions, which are broadly conservative. 

For context, some of the political figures pushing for this include Peter Dutton, Pauline Hanson and Tony Abbott. 

Watch: Anthony Albanese on the Voice referendum. Post continues below. 

Video via TODAY.

Conversing with people who think differently to us is a fact of life, and healthy debate should be encouraged. 

But around particularly sensitive subjects like this one, it can make a conversation feel rather daunting and fraught.

If you are among those who see voting yes as a way to make a positive difference, here's a guide to common arguments against the Voice from the very conservative viewpoint and how to address them.


'Settlement happened over 200 years ago. Why can't we just move forward?'

That event might be a long way in the past. But the legacy of it isn't.

Colonisation marked the beginning of policies and practices that sought to steadily erase Indigenous people, their culture and language (think removal from their lands, massacre, slavery and the Stolen Generations). 

The consequences of that have filtered through the generations, contributing to huge differences in health and financial outcomes for First Nations people, higher rates of incarceration and the number of children in out-of-home care.

If we 'move forward' towards reconciliation without acknowledging that legacy and its lasting and continual impact, we would only continue to leave some people behind.

'The Voice will give Indigenous people special treatment.'

One of the big arguments from part of the No campaign are suggestions that the Voice would give Indigenous people "special treatment" and the power to veto ideas. 

In reality, the Voice will be an advisory board that recommends or suggests changes to policies that are directly related to Indigenous people. 

Constitutional experts have noted: "The Voice does not confer 'rights', much less 'special rights', on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Nor would the Voice change or take away any right, power or privilege of anyone who is not Indigenous."

It's not an argument of giving our First Nations people 'special rights'. Rather it's a push towards 'equal rights'. 

As Pat Turner AM wrote: "We have a simple truth here: believe it or not, Aboriginal people know what's best for Aboriginal people. All we want is a say in our own affairs, not a veto, not an advantage over others. We want a fair go. And a Voice will help us get it."


'The Voice is legally risky.'

We're happy to report that constitutional experts have confirmed the plans for the Voice are ethically sound. 

For context, Australia hasn't changed its constitution since 1977. Part of the 'no' campaign says the Voice is a leap into the unknown and there is no comparable constitution body like this anywhere in the world. They also note that the Voice would be the biggest change to our democracy in Australia's history. 

There is validity in these arguments. But here are some counter points to consider. 

The plan and vision of the Voice comes directly from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the Yes campaign have specified exactly what the Voice can and can't do. With this in mind, it isn't the biggest 'unknown leap'.

Secondly, perhaps there is nothing exactly comparable worldwide regarding the Voice. But if that sort of thinking were applied to lots of other progressive movements made throughout history - women receiving the right to vote, the civil rights movement, the marriage equality plebiscite - then change would never occur. 

'The Voice won't make a difference - it's woke tokenism.'

The Voice won't magically undo centuries of marginalisation and disadvantage. That will take policy designed in conjunction with Indigenous communities and leaders, representation in places that matter, and active steps towards reconciliation. 

But voting yes to the Voice is something we can do now. 

Some may see it as tokenism, and they are allowed to have that opinion. But for many, it's a signal of that understanding, of a willingness to move forward together as a unified country.

Karen Iles is a lawyer, board director and Dharug Aboriginal woman.


Speaking with Mamamia, she noted that the Voice is a step forward in the right direction and has the likelihood of making a tangible difference. In contrast, a 'no' vote offers no chance of progress. 

"A 'no' vote, or staying silent, means that we continue the status quo. A status quo where 'race relations' are underpinned by disrespect, silencing and decisions being made for not with and by First Nations people," she said.

"Respect and recognition are so important to people - all people. Can you imagine how horrible it is to be silenced, made invisible and written out of history? That's how our current constitution makes us feel. It is now time to change."

Remember - it is possible to talk about the Voice respectfully with others.

As Aunty Munya Andrews said to Mamamia recently: "It is a hard yarn talking about the Voice. Truth-telling is a hard yarn, and our approach is hoping these conversations eventually become easier."

For genuine, thoughtful conversations about the Voice, there's a three-step approach she recommends we take:

1. Reflect: Pause and identify what's at the heart of the issue. 

2. Relate: Try to imagine how the other person might be feeling. 

3. Reconcile: Work with the other person towards a solution. 

"We want to step away from shame and blame, as it just gets in the way of achieving reconciliation. We want to move forward together. We just ask everyone to bear it in mind how this issue is impacting Indigenous people right now. It is a difficult time."

 Feature Image: AAP/Mamamia.