I wrote about my journey to reconciliation in a previous article where I spoke candidly about my relationship with First Nations people in my childhood, teens and early adult years. It was not a nice story. It is a shameful and difficult story, but one I choose to share as I believe the path to reconciliation involves us all owning and speaking our truth and having the hard conversations that will inevitably follow.
I have had a number of conversations in the long lead up to the 14 October vote. Conversations with current and former lawmakers to understand the Constitutional impact, the non-executive director community, friends and family members. Reassured as to the negligible legal impact, in the end it came down to a very personal decision about what aligned with my values of respect, responsibility and equity.
Women on Boards accorded its members the same respect in choosing to survey first to inquire if we should take a position and then listen to the more than 40% who advised us not to or were unsure and not take a position, advocating that individuals should look to their own conscience and beliefs in deciding how to vote, and not be influenced by businesses, government, or other institutions.
The fact I had the opportunity to freely express my will via an individual secret ballot is the great gift of this and every other vote we have to take in Australia. As Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, acknowledged on ABC Insiders on 15 October, “the Australian people always get it right.” Compulsory voting for every citizen aged over 18 means that no government can ever argue that the majority got it wrong.
The fact that approximately 60% of people voted ‘No’ and 40% will cause great sadness for many millions, of which I am one, however we can all take heart in the fact that we live in a country where we can have a referendum on a change to our Constitution and that the very real issue of how our broader country reconciles with its first peoples is now firmly on the agenda for individuals and institutions.
PS – I had a special mama moment with my girl, who voted for the first time on the weekend.