The Voice - time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be heard

Published: 17 May 2023

Gunai/Kurnai man Jason Coombes has worked for 10 years as a remote area nurse in Far North Queensland, the Northern Territory, Victoria and South Australia. He currently works for Remote Area Health Corps and is a QNMU member.

Jason said the time for a Voice to Parliament was long overdue.

“We need the Voice now more than ever – it is time for Aboriginal peoples to take control of their outcomes, including their education, health and future,” Jason said.

“I have observed that when it comes to the big decisions, these things get handballed back and forth depending on who is in the decision-making seat.

“We need to be the ones to make the big decisions moving forward, we are at a stalemate with how the system is currently working.

“We need to try and do things the Blackfella way – take health care to the people, not demand the people come to the clinic.

“I am a 53-year-old proud Aboriginal man, and the cycle should have well and truly been broken by now. Sadly, it is the same if not worse and that breaks my heart.

“It’s why I am still out there working remote with these disadvantaged communities.”

Navigating the public debate

As with any national debate, there are competing views and priorities, and there will always be those who seek to politicise the issue.

But it is up to every Australian to educate themselves and not get side-tracked by arguments that are deliberately intended to confuse or muddy the waters.

One of the main counter-arguments to the Voice to Parliament is that it lacks any detail. Notwithstanding the fact that Australia’s constitution is made up of foundation ‘principles’, there is plenty of information and detail on the Voice that is available for all Australians to peruse.

Visit to read about the Voice.

“To people who say there’s no detail, I draw a parallel to voting on whether there should be a new trainline built,” said the QNMU's First Nations Strategy, Policy and Research Officer, Sye Hodgman.

“When voting on something like that, it’s important to understand things like how it will impact on homes along the new railway line, and what the environmental impact will be.

“But we rely on experts to actually implement it and decide things like, how fast will the train go, what will the railway sleepers be made from, who will drive the trains, and so on.”

It is also important to note that not every Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander has endorsed the Voice to Parliament.

“This referendum and the Uluru Statement does not and cannot represent the wants and needs of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Sye.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not homogenous, and therefore don’t all have one singular voice or opinion.

“However, the statement and the proposed solutions outlined within have been generated through the largest and most considered consultative process that has ever been undertaken with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“It is fair to say, therefore, that most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are in support.”

Read more about the QNMU's position on supporting the Voice to Parliament here