Feb 20th 2023

GetUp’s statement on the referendum from Larissa Baldwin-Roberts

Let’s be honest about our political history

When it comes to First Nations people, some governments have purposely created policies that were harmful to our communities, and even well-intentioned governments are still making big mistakes.

GetUp is a powerful independent movement with over 1 million members. We give everyday people the chance to make an extraordinary impact. Our work is driven by our values, not party politics. 

We are committed to First Nations justice campaigning. We've built a specialist team of First Nations staff who are resourced to campaign in partnership with our communities. Our work is grounded in the belief that First Nations people should have the freedom and power to determine their own cultural, economic, political and social futures for themselves, families and communities.

What we are hearing is that too many First Nations people have little understanding of what the referendum is trying to deliver. There are incredible barriers to information. The debate that is taking shape is creating fear that something is being done to us. People are worried about being the centre of a long political campaign and the impact it could have on our communities.  

The majority of people support First Nations fights for justice, treaties, truth-telling and want greater ambition and action from our elected representatives - a lot of us are even asking if the referendum is enough.

Power in referendums isn't in the wording of a question, it's in the act of voting. If millions of people vote ‘yes’ it will deliver the political will for governments to move from the status quo. 

However, we won't support symbolic constitutional recognition. The addition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander as just words in our constitution was heavily rejected by our communities years ago.

We demand the type of change that will not only change people's lives but define who we are as a country. While the path through parliament looks uncertain we want to see the election commitments to voters upheld. Treaty and truth-telling must be realised.

For our movement to support the referendum, we want a strong amendment to pass through the parliament and need a public commitment that the model will be developed post referendum,in partnership with First Nations communities, at a grassroots level. We want the people who are to be represented to have the right to decide who will represent them.

To Prime Minister Anthony Albanese - this campaign can’t be run and won from Parliament House in Canberra, election night podiums or festival stages. Come and sit down with your Ministers in First Nations communities and take the time to listen to how we need this to work. 

To the media - we have a diversity of opinions and long-held aspirations that have a place in this debate, and their ability to come to fruition will ultimately rest on your choice to cover them. Put the resources in and make sure that a diversity of First Nations voices are uplifted and their stories are covered in a culturally safe way. How you cover this referendum will play a critical role in ensuring the wellbeing of our communities.

To the people who will decide - governments only do what's popular, you have a powerful say about another person's future. If you're acommitted to the future as we are, then you know change will take time. That means accountability needs to be on every election ballot until we deliver the change we're calling for.


Media contact: Amy Morgan, media@getup.org.au, +61 2 8188 2870