The Voice to Parliament is supported by nearly 90% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and provides an opportunity for an intergenerational solution to Indigenous problems, Anthony Albanese will say in a Monday address.
Delivering the Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration in Adelaide the Prime Minister will say the coming referendum, to be held later this year, “can be a moment of Australian unity”.
It will be “an extraordinary opportunity for every Australian to be counted and heard – to own this change and be proud of it, and truly live the spirit of the fair go,” Albanese says in his speech, issued ahead of delivery.
“After the tumult of colonisation, we have lived through a silence, a long tide of denial gnawing away at the shores of our spirit,” he says.
“And an entire people have been kept so long in the margins, surviving against the odds, surviving even against misguided good intentions.”
The Prime Minister’s speech comes ahead of a vote in the House of Representatives this week on the legislation to enable the referendum. The Liberal party, while advocating a no vote in the referendum, will not oppose the bill to hold that referendum. Some Liberals have broken ranks and are advocating for a yes vote in the referendum.
The debate about the Voice is becoming increasingly divisive – including among some high profile Indigenous leaders. But Albanese says it is supported by nearly 90% of Indigenous people.
In his address he ridicules the fearmongers saying, “It’s only a matter of time before they tell us that the Voice will fade the curtains”.
Albanese says Australia has “to come to grips with the past because a country that does not acknowledge the full truth of its history is burdened by its unspoken weight.
"But we learn. We acknowledge. And bit by bit, as we each admit each truth into our midst like a shaft of light, we are easing that burden. Moments of truth that include the Freedom Rides, the 1967 referendum, Mabo, Wik, the Redfern Speech, the Apology to the Stolen Generations and the red sand that was captured in a photograph on that brightest of days, forever flowing from Gough Whitlam’s hand into Vincent Lingiari’s.
"None stands as an answer in itself, but each step forward sees us narrowing the distance between reality and our perception of ourselves – and the people we aspire to be.
"We’ve always been at our best when we’ve looked to the future with excitement and hope – that’s when we make progress.
"And we are saying not just to each other but to the world that we are a mature nation coming to terms with our history, assured of our values, and shaping our own destiny.”
Albanese repeats his often-used line that the Voice referendum is not about politics or politicians but “about people”.
“People striving to make themselves heard across our great nation. In the regions and beyond in the remotest corners of our vast continent.
"All those voices rising across Australia like the headwaters of a thousand creeks and rivers joining into a mighty and wonderful current that will converge around each one of us as we step into the booth on referendum day.”
The referendum is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change, he says.
“We are fortunate to be here in this moment in history, where we have within our hands the chance to make a positive change that will last for generations.”
Meanwhile Indigenous crossbencher Lidia Thorpe, who defected from the Greens, indicated she may abstain when a vote is taken on the referendum bill in the Senate.
She told the ABC she is definitely not in the no camp and never had been.
But the yes vote was to allow “for a powerless Voice to go into the Constitution. We don’t know what this looks like. It could be one person. It’s up to the parliament to decide what the Voice looks like. So I can’t support something that gives us no power.
"And I certainly cannot support a no campaign that is looking more like a white-supremacy campaign that is causing a lot of harm.”
She said Indigenous people wanted a treaty, and they wanted the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody implemented.
“The government have an opportunity to show good faith and implement those recommendations. They might get my vote if they do.”
Thorpe also flagged she planned to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about alleged racism she had experienced in the Greens.