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Swinburne University to support The Voice

Millicent Spencer speaks with National Union of Students First Nations officer and Swinburne student Patrick Taylor about the university's position on the upcoming referendum and what it means for students.

A referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is expected to take place this year, and universities across Victoria are starting to formalise their positions. Photo: Wix.

Swinburne University of Technology has formalised its position on the mooted referendum, confirming earlier this month the university will support a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Staff received an email on Tuesday, March 7 informing them of the university's decision to support a Voice to Parliament.

The email, seen by The Burne, said the university will “call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

“While we know there are a range of views on the proposal within our community, we believe that this is an important step forward for our country,” said the email, which was co-signed by the university's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pascale Quester, and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Engagement, Professor John Evans.

“We welcome this opportunity to unite to create a better future for all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – and believe it is a critical moment for our community to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and representation.”

Swinburne joins the University of Melbourne and Monash University, which both confirmed their support earlier this year.

National Union of Students (NUS) First Nations officer Patrick Taylor said he welcomed the announcement, which highlights the university’s commitment to being at the forefront of reconciliation.

“This shows [Swinburne is] actually thinking about First Nations students,” Mr Taylor said.

“This [campaign] gives a good opportunity for more First Nations students to become advocates.”

Mr Taylor said while the university has not publicised its position to students, he expects a statement will go out soon. In the meantime he hopes the political groups on campus remain neutral.

“I would like them to stay neutral on it as much as possible if they're not going to be a yes,” he said.

Mr Taylor said he would be focusing his energies on engaging and educating students across the country on the importance of The Voice.

“For me and the NUS, our big thing between now and the end of this semester is very much education programs for students,” he said.

“When it comes to education, I've got to start all the way back with what a referendum is [because while many students] understand it's a good thing, it's just they don't understand what the process is.”

Mr Taylor said he encourages all students to engage in discussions about the referendum.

“Yes, it is a political thing but it's not just political – it's actually about the country we live in,” he said.

“The Voice is not perfect but it’s not meant to be a one stop shop sort of thing… it’s an ongoing process [and] this is just the first step in that process of getting the Uluru Statement recognised.

“Helping Indigenous people helps everyone because if you make things better for Aboriginal people it will trickle down to everyone.”

Mr Taylor said the NUS intends to launch a Yes campaign which will include a series of educational resources, and opportunities for students to join in campaigning activities such as door knocking.

In the meantime, Mr Taylor encourages students to engage in conversations with their peers.

“Talk to people in your class about it,” he said.

“If you can talk to one person, they'll talk to another person, and we’ll have that spider web effect.”


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