The Lancet: Enshrining a First Nations Voice to Australian Parliament will advance global health equity

October 9th, 2023

Published: October 9th, 2023

Enshrining a First Nations Voice to Australian Parliament will advance global health equity

Authors: Seye Abimbola, Selina Namchee Lo, Paul Stewart, Brendan Crabb, Janine Mohamed, Helen Evans, Anushka Patel, Jane Fisher, Ian Anderson

“On October 14, Australians will vote in a referendum to decide whether to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the Constitution. This is a historic moment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s recognition and self-determination, consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unlike New Zealand, Canada, and the USA (ie, comparable British settler colonial states), Australia has never signed a treaty with Indigenous peoples; neither are Indigenous peoples recognised in the Australian Constitution as the First Nations of Australia.

The authors of this Comment and the greater health community in Australia stand united strongly in favour of the Voice. Over 125 health organisations recently signed an open letter supporting a “Yes” vote for the Voice referendum, recognising that without such a mechanism, Indigenous Australians will still have worse wellbeing and health and lowered life expectancy than that of non-Indigenous Australians. The Voice will mean greater progress in wellbeing and health. It is consistent with public health principles and backed by the evidence that policies and programmes that work for communities require listening to such communities, working with them, following their empowered leadership, and enabling their self-determined control. Part of truth telling and historical reckoning, particularly for non-Indigenous Australians, is to listen and respect the dignity of Indigenous people as knowers….”