Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson delivered a powerful address at the National Press Club on Wednesday, where he emphasised the unifying power of love, and called for recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution.
He said a Yes vote would unite multicultural and Indigenous Australians.
Pearson passionately declared that “the love of country” is the driving force behind the desire for recognition of Indigenous Australians in the nation’s constitution.
He emphasized that this love transcends political boundaries, stating, “It is the love of our country that joins us all as Australians.”
Pearson drew a sharp distinction between “patriotism” and the profound love of country he spoke of, highlighting that the latter is rooted in the awe-inspiring natural beauty and cultural richness of Australia.
He said that unlike “patriotism”, that there was “nothing political about this love of country.”
“Rather, it is about the wonderous land and seas. All of the nature and culture makes this country so beloved of us all. And its effect upon ourselves”.
He stressed that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians need to share more stories and culture to bridge their divides, moving away from blame and toward embedding love in the nation’s history.
Pearson also said that there was no need to apportion blame, but to now move forward and embed love in the “bedrock of this nation’s history.”
“That’s no fault of anyone,” he said.
“It’s just — we are so few, and you so many. Australians mostly do not know our cultures, our languages, the things that make us the same as you.
“And the things that make us so unfamiliar, even after two centuries.”
Noel Pearson said a Voice allows Indigenous Australians to be heard, but more importantly, for the rest of Australia to listen.
“This referendum will uphold the condition constitution and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of Australia,” he says.
The Aboriginal leader ensured that there as nothing constitutionally unsafe about a Voice to Parliament.
“This amendment is Constitutionally safe. And will adorn our founding law.
“It is not inequality to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were the owners of Australia since time immemorial. It is simply the truth.”
It is about listening
At the centre of the proposed change is the need and desire to listen Pearson said and when people listen then health and other outcomes for Indigenous people would improve.
“When we listen to each other, outcomes improve.
“I’ve learned the hard way — over a lifetime of community work, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, that listening makes it possible.
“I have observed both the fundamental power of listening and the devastating consequences of willful deafness.
“I’ve learned that listening makes it possible.”
“If we vote Yes, we’re voting Yes to orientate the relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians down a safe and responsible middle path,” he says.
“Voting Yes is a rejection of confected war. Voting Yes crosses the bridge on the pathway to peace.
“Voting No is not a neutral choice. Voting No is an active choice to take us nowhere.
Pearson warned that voting No would leave us “neverland” as two people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous “love the same land but have not learned to love each other.”
“Voting No leaves us suspended in the neverland that exists when two peoples love the same homeland, but have not yet learned to love each other.”
Accountability and responsibility
He also addressed the accountability that an Indigenous Voice to Parliament would bestow Aboriginal people when dealing with their issues. He went further to say that by Voting Yes that Indigenous people would be “accountable.”
“Blame us when you give us a voice. Hold us accountable, too, when we do this.
“We want our right to take responsibility. Allow us to empower our people to take charge of our children, our families, and our people’s destiny.”
“On October 14, we whisper into the wind of time that ‘No gets us nowhere and Yes makes it possible’.
In his closing remarks, Pearson said:
“On October 14, we can carve our generation’s name into the bedrock of history. And for as long as there is history in this land, it will be recorded — we were asked, and we proudly voted Yes. We can do this for the love of our country.
“The love of Australia. My land. Your land. Our land.”