- The Guardian
- Issue #2073
I was just 17 when the ’67 referendum gave us the right to exist and to be counted in the place we’d always called home.
I’d turned 22 when the Larrakia people, my people, raised the petition for our remarkable coastline to finally be given back.
By the time I’d turned 25, Whitlam finally poured that famous red Kalkarindji sand into Vincent Lingiari’s hand.
I was 58 when the government said sorry – for the pain and the heartache, for the families destroyed and the children who were taken. Simple words that took so long to be spoken.
By the time I’d turned 67, the Uluru Statement from The Heart was written in ink, and we had a plan to decide our future – to gain a real voice of our own.
I’m 73 today, a Larrakia elder, and in my time I’ve seen so many promises made and broken. Governments come and go. I’ve watched mouths wide open and ears shut closed.
I’ve seen gaps get wider, disadvantage spread further, and our voices go largely unheard.
But for the first time in such a long time, I feel optimistic about the future we’re creating.
This referendum isn’t about politics or constitutions or governments or legislation – it came from us, not from them.
It’s about finally answering a handful of questions that have plagued generations of our people:
How do we keep our kids at school? How do we stop our communities’ suffering? How do we fight the scourge of domestic violence, suicide, and poor mental health?
How do we stop repeating this same terrible cycle month after month, year after year, decade after decade?
Some people say to me “You’re an elder, why don’t you fix this problem.”
Well, we need to have a seat at the table. Let me have a say and bring our suggested solutions to these major issues.
The Voice gives us a platform and a way forward.
We’re not asking for money, we’re not asking for your backyards. We want recognition and acknowledgment, we want to be included.
I’m tired of people making decisions for me and my community. Anyone else would be too.
Let us have our say and bring our solutions. Let us have our voice.
Give our kids a better life.
Aunty Bilawara Lee
Senior Larrakia Elder