Time to get on board for the Voice

Posted on 28 Aug 2023

By Lea Corbett

Voice microphone

Has your not-for-profit found it's voice on the Voice?

Your board may have already considered whether to take a public position on the forthcoming Referendum.

If you haven’t, there is no time to waste.

As the Voice referendum moves closer and discussion in the media and among some in the community takes a turn for the worse, you should no longer sit on the fence.

First Nations people are long overdue for recognition from the rest of Australia, along with our commitment to better understand their unique perspective and our willingness to walk beside them on the path ahead to a more just future.

Business and financial media have been debating the pros and cons of companies - banks, sporting code peaks, IT and insurance companies, and some of the country’s biggest corporations – declaring their support for a Voice to Parliament and a “yes” vote in the Referendum.

The message seems to be that while there are some risks to be considered and managed for some companies, there are so many more compelling business and moral reasons for speaking out.

A recent opinion piece by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald business columnist, Elizabeth Knight titled ‘Should companies have a Voice or mind their own business?’ concluded: “The wellbeing of all parts of the community and the wellbeing of society should be important to all businesses – so picking a side in the debate around the Voice shouldn’t be discouraged.”

So, has your board considered the Referendum issues and taken a position on?

Lea Corbet
Map Consulting founder and director Lea Corbett.

As a NFP, your key consideration should arguably be – is support for the Referendum consistent with our purpose, values and stakeholder expectations?

You may already have decided to acknowledge the traditional owners on the land on which you operate in your publications and on your website, and/or at the start of every key meeting – actions demonstrating your respect for First Nations peoples.

You may even have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), perhaps supported National Reconciliation Week or another national campaign for social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Support for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Referendum should be a no brainer for your organisation – for any organisation that strives to create a fairer, more just, equal and inclusive Australia in some way.

If you’re wondering how the ACNC might view this support, check out their website.

The AICD has also developed guidance for boards on this issue.

And if you are in any doubt about the ongoing inequality and injustice faced by First Nations peoples, have a look at the latest Productivity Commission report on progress under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Constitutional recognition and a greater say for First Nations peoples have been a central pillar of the reconciliation movement for decades.

So please don’t put it off.

If you haven’t already, NFP boards should seek to understand the issues connected with the Voice, make information on the Voice available to staff, clients and other stakeholders, and make your views known to the country.

Lea Corbett is founder and director of not-for-profit focused Map Consulting Group

More information

Thomas Mayo: What the Voice means to me

Community sector leaders create a coalition for 'Yes' vote on Voice

The Uluru Statement from the Heart

Reconciliation Australia

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