Reflections on the Voice: A letter to the community legal sector
by Bobbi Murray
First Nations Justice Advisor
To my colleagues in the community legal sector,
My name is Bobbi Murray. I am a Barkindji, Nyiyampaa, and Malyangapa woman, originally from Wilcannia in far west NSW. I am also the First Nations Justice Advisor for CLCs Australia, convenor of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Network and the First Nations Cadetship Administrator for CLCNSW.
I’m on my way today to Sydney for the National Indigenous Legal Conference this year hosted by Ngalaya, the national peak for Indigenous lawyers and law students. I’ve been reflecting over the weekend about the referendum and how severely disappointed I am by the results. Somewhat not surprised, but I had hope.
The referendum for me, was a chance to be counted. To be seen as real people in this country that our ancestors have cared for, for thousands of years. A country we, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, BELONG to.
My heart breaks when I see so much misinformation fed to our community leaders. This referendum had nothing to do with property ownership, nothing to do with a Treaty, and was not going to affect wider Australia in any way. But the decision has been made and now ALL of Australia must live with it. There is no offer on the table for a treaty or anything else. Never was. And probably in my lifetime…. Never will be.
My sadness in all this, is that I feel like this has been so disrespectful to all the tireless efforts of our old people who gave up so much for us to have the little say in our lives we have today. The countless lives lost, blood spilt and tears that could form an ocean. All that we have fought for, in Australia’s short history, is equity, and the right to have access to the same education, heath, housing… and to be treated the same under the law.
Now I see that my children will need to join a very long line in Australia’s history. One of fighting for what they need to be equal in this country and for what is right and just for our people.
The severe racism and targeting of violence towards people and families for campaigning for rights for our people has hurt. During the campaign, I wanted to make my position heard. I wanted to talk openly and proudly but I was never going to put my family at risk. I commend the absolute bravery of those who did.
Going ahead from here, what does this mean now? No one knows.
We go back to our daily work, as expressed well by a community colleague, of ‘band-aids over chainsaw wounds’, and extending on that, using aspirin for great trauma, elastic bands on broken hearts…. all of which, never last long before you need to start again.
I know here in the community legal sector we will continue to stand alongside communities and our community-controlled centres across the country to fight for what is right: for closing the gap, for Justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for human rights, social justice and equity for all peoples.
Yours in respect and unity,