Friends of the Earth would like to acknowledge that our work and lives across so-called Australia all play out on lands that were stolen, and have been illegally occupied by the colonial state for over 200 years. This statement serves to clarify our position on the Voice, as the Referendum approaches and more groups take public stances on it.
We would also like to acknowledge the current public debate over the proposed Voice to Parliament, and begin by saying that we hold the deepest compassion and respect for First Nations Peoples at this incredibly sensitive and difficult time where the struggle for self determination is under question in the public eye.
Friends of the Earth has been approached by several groups for confirmation of our organisation’s position on the Referendum, regarding whether or not we will be campaigning for people to vote a certain way. This statement serves to clarify our position, as the Referendum approaches and more groups take public stances on it. We note that while this statement is our agreed-upon position as an organisation. Friends of the Earth Australia member groups and projects have autonomy to engage in the Referendum lead-up as they see appropriate, because we are a federation of aligned, autonomous groups.
On this land and across the globe, we will always seek to deeply listen to the demands of First Nations Peoples and advocate for recognition of Indigenous sovereignty. We will always hold First Nations justice at the foundations of our work, guiding our intentions for the deepest level of care and love for one another, the Earth and lands we live on. There can be no climate justice without First Nations justice.
As the Referendum approaches, we continue to see points articulated which demonstrate the depths of complexity about the meaning of the Voice, and acknowledge that there are valid arguments both for the Blak/progressive ‘No’ and the ‘Yes’ vote. We respect everyone whose campaigning efforts come from a place of good faith and desire to strengthen power and justice for First Nations Peoples. We wholeheartedly stand against the racist and colonial structural voices which are campaigning for a ‘No’ vote to further repress and disempower First Nations Peoples.
After much discussion and reflection, Friends of the Earth has come to the decision that we do not feel comfortable to add our weight to either the ‘Yes’ or Blak/progressive ‘No’ campaigns.
This position reflects the diversity of views held within our organisation, especially by the First Nations people we work with and stand in solidarity with in so-called Australia and around the world. We understand that some will find this disappointing, however we ask that our position is honoured and respected for the nuanced reasoning that informs it.
We support First Nations Peoples in bravery and courage to share their views on a matter reflective of the landscapes of justice-seeking they are traversing. We encourage people to continue listening openly, and come voting time, make a decision from the heart that is informed by justice-centred values.
We want to acknowledge that a ‘Yes’ to the Voice is not a simple remedy to the centuries of oppression and violence inflicted on First Nations Peoples by the colonial state.
Friends of the Earth has always advocated for real, material, system change for First Nations communities.
Struggles for justice - including for Treaty, Sovereignty, self-determination of communities, rejecting community intervention and income management, land back and land management, funding communities not prisons (and connected fights to stop Blak deaths in custody, raise the age of criminal responsibility and get young people out of detention), preserving First Nations languages and culture, and keeping children on country and with their families - are long-waged battles against the colonial state by First Nations Peoples that will continue on after the Voice Referendum.
The months leading up to the Referendum will see heightened national attention on First Nations Peoples. Since we will not be campaigning for either voting option, Friends of the Earth will use our platforms and community microphones to amplify the diversity of struggles for justice led by First Nations Peoples, and direct our members and broader community to work they can support by donating their time, money and other resources. We will also be examining our own campaigns to look into how our current work can more strongly add weight to First Nations justice demands.
There is no climate justice without First Nations justice.
We believe this time presents an opportunity for non-Indigenous people to learn more about the long-held demands mentioned above, and commit to supporting these demands beyond the course of the Referendum. The information and resources we will share in coming months are to get people thinking about how their support for First Nations justice can continue beyond this year, and inform their existing work, communities and individual lives.
Always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
See this page for some First Nations-run groups working for justice across many fronts (including climate and environmental protection, workers rights, and reversing incarceration rates) that we encourage people to learn about and support.