Yes: Buddhist resources for the Voice

On 14 October Australians have the chance to vote to acknowledge our Indigenous people in our constitution, and to support establishing a body to advise on Indigenous issues to our federal Parliament. This proposal is based on the Uluru Statement from the Heart, made by an overwhelming consensus of 250 Indigenous leaders in 2017, which says in part:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

The Voice is endorsed by our Government. Together with most religions in Australia, the Buddhist community supports a Yes vote. This is a matter of fundamental morality. No-one should be a stranger in their own land.

The BCNSW has done an excellent job in bringing people together to support a Yes vote for the upcoming Voice referendum. We had a lovely session on the weekend. And they’ve put together some videos and other materials in multiple languages to help inform our diverse Buddhist communities here in Australia.

At the event, Prof. Jack Beetson hinted at a new ad that was going to make a splash, well, here it is. Aussies will know.

For the folks overseas, if you’re asking how it is even possible that this is a question, you’re not alone. A lot of people will be looking at this and wondering just how racist Australians are. Well, not my Australia. We’re better than that.

But there is a lot to overcome. I just opened Youtube, and the top promoted video—by “Sky News” AKA Fox—was opposing the voice. And not just the main video, but almost every single top-listed suggested video is anti-voice, the sole exception being one by the ABC (our national broadcaster). Opposing the Voice is not a sign of boldness and independence. It’s a sign that you’ve been captured by the algorithm, swept up in the monetization of hate.

When I first heard about the Voice, it felt like a revelation. Something so simple, so profoundly right, offering us a part in becoming a better nation, a nation I can be proud of. This is a once in a generation chance.

Vote Yes.


Hello Sujato. There can be no single voice for all Australian Indigenous people, which is why there are already many high profile Australian Indigenous people opposing the Voice. The Voice sounds like a type of high level bureaucratic totalitarianism. It does not sound democratic. I doubt it is the role of a bhikkhu to support such a divisive issue. As an example of how non-Buddhist this can be, in the following video, a spokeswoman for the Voice says the Voice would not be concerned about Australia spending $380 billion on USA Military Industrial Complex Nuclear Submarines (deemed by an ex PM to be useless). $380 billion will increase the Australian Federal Government budget deficit by 33%. Also, any such amount of government expenditure threatens the other social expenditure commitments of the Australian government, including the billions of dollars spent each year on Indigenous support & welfare programs. The Buddha encouraged to examine the benefits & dangers of all things.

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Could you please not spread disinformation on this site. 83% of Indigenous people support the Voice, yet social media and the media present it as if the two sides are equal. They are not.

Please don’t say such things. It is an advisory body.

That’s because the Voice is limited to Indigenous issues. This is how Government works. Different bodies deal with different things. She is being responsible and only offering opinions within the remit of the Voice, as she should.

Please have a heart. It’s just devastating to see disinformation being spread here as well as everywhere else. :heavy_heart_exclamation:


From a Canadian perspective this looks like a step up on us. Best of luck.


I’m curious, do you not have Indigenous acknowledgement in the Constitution or a Treaty?

Here is the full text of the Constitutional amendment:

“Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

  1. there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
  2. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  3. the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.”


In Cymru we now have our own parliament and policies to help preserve and increase the numbers of Welsh speakers (how effective this is is another matter). It would be nice to see the indigenous population of Australia get more representation.


Gee. This is so embarrassing for Canadians. We don’t really know much about it, because it’s so complicated with all the treaty matters that it’s almost completely under control of government lawyers.

I would say that we have “symbolic recognition” but not Constitutional, certainly not in the way Rachel Perkins is representing constitutional recognition in such an articulate way in that interview with her that was posted. Our stuff is really issues driven. It requires heavy media support for First Nations to be heard.

We’re still dealing with Truth and Reconciliation, putting in place the recommendations from the commission on Missing and Murdered Women, First Nations housing … you should see the news!

If not for very active and direct pressure from First Nations … Canada’s actually very paternalistic unfortunately. Still paternalistic, maybe is how it should be said. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government really put a clamp on things. They went through the Constitution like a scythe. I’m an Albertan. This is the province responsible for that monster, because … you know … oil.

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Well that’s great.

It was quite a problem when India transitioned to democracy that the Brahmins successfully ensured representation would only be by geography, ensuring that the dispersed minorities would have no say in the government (with the inevitable consequences we’re now seeing in that country…)

I hope they (and Puerto Ricans and Native Americans and … and … ) do get the representation (and power!) they deserve. :heart:

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Interesting! The Voice is a much milder proposal, just a few lines in the constitution and an advisory body.

There are some Indigenous people in Parliament as well, but of course that depends on the voting cycles. And there’s no real guarantee that the (few) Indigenous MPs will have the time or the remit to engage in every issue that affects their people.

I was thinking about the nature of an adviser, and I remembered the documentary The Fog of War with Robert McNamara. One of the stories he tells was of the Bay of Pigs, when the world was truly on the brink of nuclear war. People were telling JFK that Khrushchev wanted war. But there was one man in the room who had been a former Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He said, “I know Khrushchev, we used to work together. And I can tell you, he wants peace. But his position is fragile: if he is seen as ceding to the US he’ll lose his job. We have to give him a way out that makes him look like he won.” JFK listened to his advice, and peace prevailed—just.

That’s the power of advice. To have someone in the room who knows what is what, and can offer words of experience. That’s why our world did not end up in nuclear conflict. And that’s why the Voice, although it has no political power as such, has a huge moral significance to help politicians make better, wiser, more compassionate decisions.

Nonetheless, the Preamble does endorse the virtues of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, and Article 17 says:

Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of “Untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

There is nothing similar in Australia’s Constitution, which is set up “under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.


Yes, we have an Indian Act. But we also have metis, inuit, and also most if not all of BC Indian territory is unceded vs. treaty territory. Here I live in the middle of Treaty 7 Territory as well as Metis Nation Region 3. The Blood/ Blackfoot territory also extends down into Montana, so there are lots of cross border issues, including water rights. The Blood have their own policing, even though under the Indian Act First Nations Policing is the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They work together. It’s very complicated!

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I was a little bit wrong … I was going to say that some of the problem is them getting the rights already ceded to them … but there it is in black and white, directly from the federal government’s website.

The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change.

Indigenous peoples have a special constitutional relationship with the Crown. This relationship, including existing Aboriginal and treaty rights, is recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Section 35 contains a full box of rights, and holds the promise that Indigenous nations will become partners in Confederation on the basis of a fair and just reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the Crown.

The Government recognizes that Indigenous self-government and laws are critical to Canada’s future, and that Indigenous perspectives and rights must be incorporated in all aspects of this relationship. In doing so, we will continue the process of decolonization and hasten the end of its legacy wherever it remains in our laws and policies.

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I’m Australian, and like most Australians, I will be voting No to this proposal, which seeks to enshrine racial differentiation into the Constitution. Rather than adding more layers of racial differentiation into the Constitution, we should be removing that which is already there. Per the Sutta Pitaka, “Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahman.”

All the best and kind regards.

Thank you for putting your eloquent voice out there on this important issue, Bhante.

On Friday, my singer-songwriter brother put his out too releasing this new song:


OMG John, that’s amazing, thanks so much.

That seems like too much coolness in one family - a pali teacher and a singer songwriter! :grin:

There’s also this in case people haven’t seen it:


Seems sensible to me.

Thank you for this post.

Well, so will a number of people who feed me, so I’ll not crack the sads.