The Mayor of the Lockhart River Aboriginal Shire Council believes an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will provide long term benefits to his remote community. 

Speaking at the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane yesterday, Councillor Wayne Butcher says he’s spent more than a decade meeting with politicians and getting them to listen to what the community wants has been one of the biggest challenges. 

“Just travelling to Canberra over the last 12 years and even to Brisbane, as well as the (Queensland) State Parliament, and trying to influence change and policies for the better of our people has been very challenging.

So if the politicians at a State level and Federal level can’t hear my concern as an elected leader as well, I fear what chance has the rest of the country got.”

Lockhart River is situated on the eastern side of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula and is home to about 700 people. 

Councillor Butcher says he’s getting behind the ‘Yes’ campaign for two reasons. 

“Firstly, the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution. 

I think that’s very critical, because once we get cemented inside the Constitution, then we get stability, for long term decision making.

We can’t afford to rest on new laws and legislations trying to give us the right to have a voice.

The only way we can get a long sustainable voice is to be enshrined in the Constitution.

That’s just my personal experience in politics all these years.”

Councillor Butchers says getting young Indigenous people enrolled to vote for the upcoming Referendum is just one of the challenges ahead. 

“There’s a big drive going on at the moment from the Australian Electoral Commission and to get out to all the Aboriginal communities including the remote ones. So, 

we’ve got to get them on the roll, and then getting the right information to them about the referendum and the importance of it.

I guess we’ve watched our Elders in the past and our leaders in the past, march the streets.

We’ve watched them in the High Courts of this country and even in the High Courts in the states and territories, fighting for what is rightfully ours or what is right for us to get back, the l-o-r-e back on our decision making agenda again.

And I think, we’ve got to get the right information out there.

A lot of people are hearing second hand information, so for our own people to make a decision, they need the right information.

But then the biggest, biggest challenge, I guess, is to get the rest of the country, the other 97% of the population to support us, you know, it in getting every trust around the people enshrined in the in the Constitution.”

Image Credit: Rhianna Patrick