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Artwork painted by Nathan Patterson (Wagiman)

17 October 2023

Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin: the Voice to Parliament referendum

The weekend’s referendum was a nation-defining moment and the results will have consequences for us all and for the generations to come. In line with my continued commitment to working closely with our Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Innovation, Professor Mark Rose, I wanted to share his reflections with the Deakin community:

‘The people of Australia have spoken. The 45th referendum for constitutional change has come and gone and, whichever side we were drawn to, we should now accept the result.

In accepting the full provision of the democratic process, we should be mindful that everyone who voted one way or the other was exercising their democratic franchise and no one should be criticised nor condemned for exercising their right to do so.

The process has surfaced conversations about our First Nations people that possibly should have happened decades ago and this has added to the binary polarisation that we all felt in this time.

The result will be an impediment in the path to reconciliation and we are now all charged with having to navigate a future out of it.

The spark of self-determination was lit in 1967. Since then it has been fuelled by the work and dreams of many. While great optimism existed for the Voice to Parliament let us be reminded that a true and enduring self-determination does not come from the ballot box but from the kind of education received here at Deakin.

So let the armchair experts do their analysis on what went right and what went wrong. In the meantime, here at Deakin University, addressing unfinished business through education is our business.

I thank sincerely the Vice-Chancellor, his senior management, University Council and all those across Deakin who walked with us and shared the dream of the Voice to Parliament with great respect.’

I would like to thank Mark for these very thoughtful words and also his extraordinary leadership.

Time will be needed for deep reflection as we consider what this result means for our nation and the long path to reconciliation. However, there are some things we can be absolutely clear about here at Deakin.

Our commitment, as set it out in our strategic plan Deakin 2030: Ideas to Impact remains unchanged:

Indigenous knowledges and ideas inform our future. Deakin is committed to Reconciliation an­d Treaty, advancing the educational aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and ensuring Indigenous Knowledges are widely recognised and woven into the fabric of Australian life. All our endeavours will reflect on Australia’s full history and seek to build an inclusive future.

Building on this, our Indigenous Strategy sets out how we will continue to work to improve the experiences of Indigenous Australians and ensure Indigenous knowledges are integral to all our lives. Now more than ever we will strive to do better for and with First Nations Peoples.

It is a long journey we are taking both as a country and as a university community. Let us continue to walk together and to treat each other with compassion and respect.

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