As a mixed kid, I always knew growing up in Australia was an inherently multicultural experience. Being both Indian and Australian was a point of pride, a badge of honour.
But as an adult, I have grown cynical. A few years ago I watched my migrant Indian father bravely and strongly fight a legal battle over workplace racism. He had been experiencing daily aggressions based on the colour of his skin for nearly a decade and it wore him down in a way that broke my heart.
Watching my Caucasian mother be incredibly compassionate, but ultimately struggle to understand what that experience of racism must truly be like for my dad, has been demoralising for all of us – we felt helpless. All of us saw the societal discrimination clearly, but all had different, and very unfairly defined levels of agency to do something about it.
I was disappointed, and frustrated in the system, frustrated in my own privilege. My bubble burst as I came to the clear realisation that despite my Gen Z upbringing of ‘a fairer world for all,’ this notion was perhaps naive. We hadn’t really progressed as a country – or at least not as far as I had experienced.
In my daily life, someone I loved, who was my blood, felt powerless. And this experience, was in a country I called home, I had faith in, and until that point had a positive experience with inclusion.
Why do I talk about this? Because the upcoming October 14th referendum has given me hope for the first time to build a more inclusive Australia. To fix some of these systemic issues of racism in this country.
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The referendum is asking all Australians if they think First Nations people should be recognised in the Constitution. If they should have a voice to decision-makers on the issues that concern them. Their only request is to have an advisory committee to Parliament to suggest what would be best for their community, their people and their children’s futures.
Practically speaking, this could mean that maybe, First Nations people don’t have to assimilate to be treated fairly. Maybe their communities can continue the legacy of 65,000 years of the oldest living culture in the world, with more true acknowledgment and acceptance. Maybe Indigenous children can grow up with better access to healthcare, education and housing, all issues that currently disproportionately affect them compared to the non-Indigenous child.
Why would I say yes to that? Because I know that my migrant South Asian community has more power as a growing majority in this country, and even with that power – we are still so disenfranchised.
I am thinking of that experience when I walk to the ballot box on October 14th. I am reflecting on the Uluṟu Statement of the Heart that speaks to “the structural nature of our (First Nations) problem. This is the torment of our (First Nations) powerlessness,” and connecting the dots of that sentiment in my own life.
I can’t even imagine what it might be like to belong to an ancient first peoples, who have such a deep and rich history and connection to the land, to be systematically erased in a very short and abrupt amount of time. I can’t comprehend that in 2023, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are denied true self-determination in their own country, on their own land.
First Nations Australians are not represented in the constitution. That’s a fact. They are not on the supposed ‘birth certificate’ of this country. This is not true, full nationhood. There have been no tangible steps forward to building a true treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And by choosing to vote yes, I believe we are taking that one step forward towards telling the truth about this country’s history. By doing so, I have hope that we can start doing the work to bring about a better, more unified and equitable future for all Australians.
So on October 14th, me and my family will be walking together with First Nations people to vote YES. Will you?