Support a First Nations Voice to Parliament: A Chinese Australian’s Perspective

Jimmy Li

As a Chinese-Australian, I feel incredibly privileged and grateful to call this country home and cherish the opportunities to explore its diverse landscapes, from rugged mountains to expansive deserts, lush forests to sandy beaches, and vast oceans. These are all integral parts of the intricate tapestry that make this land so remarkable and unique.

Australia is also an incredible land of opportunities. That’s why migrants from all over the world come here, to enjoy living in this generally peaceful society, raise families and reap the benefits of Australia’s robust economy. Personally, I arrived in Adelaide in 1996 and later moved to Melbourne in 1999, and feel immensely fortunate for everything this country has provided me.

But as I marvel at the majesty and opportunities of this beautiful land, I also remember that it has been the home of First Nations people for over 60,000 years, who have taken care of it with a deep connection and respect that’s reflected in their unique culture and arts. Unfortunately, they have been subject to horrendous unjust treatment, particularly during the colonial era.

As a nation, Australia has a rare opportunity to address this historical injustice and heal the wound in the heart of our country, through the upcoming First Nations Voice referendum.

In her heartfelt essay titled “Ending a Great Spiritual Loneliness” in the book “Statements from the Soul,”Indigenous leader Fiona Jose writes that constitutional inclusion through a Voice will not only end a “great spiritual loneliness” for her people. It will also benefit all Australians, because until the ancient heart of this country is recognized and given a voice, we are all spiritually poorer. The Voice is an opportunity to recognize and honour the unique and enduring presence of First Nations people in Australia’s history from time immemorial.

While Chinese Australians have also experienced discrimination in this country, we cannot fully comprehend the depth of powerlessness and torment experienced by the First Nations people. As a proud Australian with Chinese heritage, I believe that we cannot simply be passive bystanders, benefiting from the abundant opportunities that this remarkable multicultural country offers, since the abolition of the White Australia policy in the early 1970s. It is our responsibility to actively contribute to the creation of a more just and inclusive society for all, including honouring and supporting our First Nations people.

That means backing a Yes vote, to support the First Nations’ Voice to Parliament as a crucial step towards recognition and reconciliation.

By embodying a long-overdue recognition for our First Nations people in the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, the Voice presents an opportunity for healing, and moving forward as a nation. Giving Indigenous Australians a greater say in decisions that affect their lives will ensure that their perspectives and knowledge are considered when making laws or policies related to them. This will improve policies and practical outcomes for First Nations people.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, Kevin Rudd’s apology about the Stolen Generation, and Indigenous musician and cultural icon Archie Roach’s poignant song “Took My Children Away” all move us deeply and remind us of the profound pain and suffering endured by our First Nations people. This referendum presents an opportunity to finally taking a fundamental step towards making amends and finally setting things right.

“The time for the Voice has come”, as Julian Leeser MP recently said after he resigned from the shadow cabinet in order to actively campaign Yes for a Voice. “Aboriginal people are reaching out to be heard”, said Ken Wyatt, the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives and the former Coalition minister for Indigenous affairs.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a powerful and historic document written by consensus of First Nations people. It poignantly expresses the desire of Indigenous Australians: “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.” The path towards healing and reconciliation for our First Nations people is a deeply emotional and profound journey. As Chinese Australians, we have the chance to take part in this journey, learn from it, and develop a greater respect and understanding of our First Nations people – and truly be part of this country and its democratic processes.

So, let’s stand in solidarity with our First Nations people, listen to the cries from their hearts, support a First Nations Voice to Parliament and work together with all communities to build a healed, harmonious, and prosperous country for all.

13 April 2023

(Jimmy Li is the president of Chinese Community Council of Australia – Victoria Chapter)







在《发自灵魂的宣言》一书中,原住民领袖菲奥娜·何塞(Fiona Jose)在她的题为“终结巨大的精神孤独感”的感人文章中写道,通过一个“原住民之声”来实现宪法上的认可,不仅可以结束她的人民的“巨大的精神孤独感”,还可以使所有澳大利亚人受益。因为在这个国家,只有当古老的内心被认可并被赋予发声权时,我们才不会在精神上贫瘠。这个“原住民之声”是一个机会,可以凭此承认并尊重从太古以来原住民在澳大利亚历史上的独特和持续的存在。




前澳大利亚总理保罗·基廷(Paul Keating)的雷德费恩(Redfern)演讲、陆克文(Kevin Rudd)就“被偷走的一代”(是指澳大利亚历史上,20世纪上半叶实行的强制遣散政策,将原住民家庭的孩子强制送往寄养家庭或寄宿学校,迫使他们与自己的父母、家庭和文化隔离)发表的道歉声明以及原住民音乐家和文化偶像阿奇·罗奇(Archie Roach)感人的歌曲《夺走了我的孩子》都深深地感动了我们,并提醒我们,我们的原住民经历了深深的痛苦和苦难。这次修宪全民公投提供了一个机会,终于可以迈出重要的一步,向原住民道歉,正视历史。

“建立原住民之声,此其时也。”这是最近朱利安·利瑟(Julian Leeser)议员在辞去影子内阁职务,以便积极为支持“原住民之声”进行宣传时所说的话。“原住民正在寻求被倾听”,第一位原住民众议院议员、前联盟党原住民事务部部长肯·怀亚特(Ken Wyatt)说道。

“发自肺腑的乌鲁宣言”是一份由澳大利亚原住民通过协商达成共识而写成的具有历史性意义的重要文件。它深刻地表达了澳大利亚原住民的恳切愿望:“1967年,我们被统计(在人口中);2017年,我们期待被倾听。” 对于我们的原住民来说,走向弥合伤口和和解的道路是一条充满内心痛楚的漫长之旅。作为华裔澳大利亚人,我们有机会参与这一旅程,从中学习,并对我们的原住民产生更深的尊重和理解 – 真正成为这个国家及其民主过程的一部分。


2023.04.26 于墨尔本