'I'm an Indigenous Elder. Here's what I want the undecided to know about the Voice.'

Nungamanladi! That's 'hello' in Bardi language. 

Are you perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Voice debate right now? You're definitely not the only one.

Aunty Munya Andrews is an Aboriginal Elder, author and barrister. She is also co-director of Evolve Communities, a trusted authority for Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Ally Training.

For years Aunty Munya has been working towards making this country a more inclusive place through allyship and education – and voting in the referendum, she explains, is simply about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution through an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

"Unfortunately this issue of the Voice has become very political. But this is a safe space – no guilt, no blame and no shame," she tells Mamamia

Watch: Anthony Albanese speaking about the referendum. Post continues below.

Video via TODAY.

To help dispel some of the misconceptions around the Voice in a judgement-free manner, Aunty Munya is here to answer some commonly asked questions and help you make a decision that aligns with your values. 

'Where did the Voice come from?'

The plan and vision of the Voice comes directly from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

For reference, the Uluru Statement from the Heart is the most comprehensive consultation of First Nations people that Australia has ever seen. Twelve Regional Dialogues were held across Australia throughout 2016-2017, during which more than 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people came together to deliberate and think about which reforms would have the most impact in their communities.


"I really recommend people watch this video from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which provides some additional background. It's very moving," says Aunty Munya. 

'I'm confused about what a Yes vote would actually mean. Can you explain?'

Sure! The Voice will... 

  • give independent advice to the Parliament and Government.
  • be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of local communities.
  • be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth.
  • be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed.
  • be accountable and transparent.
  • work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.
  • not have a veto power.
  • not have a program delivery function.

"If you are still feeling a bit confused, this is a brilliant [TikTok] video below that does lots of explaining."

@wilstracke Why are First Nations Peoples so insistent that the Voice needs to be enshrined in the constitution? #voicetoparliament #ulurustatement #voteyes #fromtheheart ♬ original sound - Wil Stracke

'If I vote no, does that make me a racist?' 

"If you do vote no, it doesn't have a meaning that you are racist – if you feel you have valid reasons for voting no," says Aunty Munya. "We just ask people to do the research and educate themselves about it.

"The 'No' vote campaign typically relies on arguments that the Voice is legally risky, unknown, divisive and that there's not enough detail. Legal experts, however, have noted that the Voice is not legally risky, which disbands that claim."

'What are the Yes campaign's main arguments?'

The most common arguments for voting yes include that the Voice will provide recognition and be representative of First Nations people.

It also aims to provide an opportunity for listening, achieving better results and being a permanent avenue for Indigenous people having their perspectives heard and acknowledged.

More than 80 per cent of Aboriginal people are supportive of the Voice. This has been fact-checked

"For me, the Voice is a start and I'm very supportive. I look at what we've got now, and there's still a gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians," Aunty Munya tells Mamamia.

"The gap is not closing. This is a proposal to try another way to close the gap. So for me, it is important to at least try and give it a shot. Otherwise we can go back to the drawing board. But this is a positive step forward, and one that would be enshrined in the constitution. It's a step in the right direction."


'Why don't all Aboriginal people agree on the Voice?'

Aboriginal people are like any other people in the world – they have a diverse range of opinions. The same goes for the Voice and the referendum.

"When we look at the Indigenous map of Australia, it shows how diverse and far-reaching Aboriginal Australia is."

However, as mentioned, the majority of Indigenous people have expressed support for a Voice to Parliament. 

'Is it possible to talk about the Voice respectfully with others?'

"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," says Aunty Munya.

But for genuine, thoughtful conversations about the Voice, there's a three-step approach we can 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," she notes.

"Vote with your own conscience. As we like to say in my Bardi language 'Inyidigal Gorna' (Go Well)."

For more from Aunty Munya Andrews, you can follow Evolve Communities' website hereInstagram, and see their books here

Feature Image: Supplied.