Our community recently celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut – marking 74 years since the Jewish people realised self-determination in Israel, our indigenous homeland.
Yet as Australians, we did so as citizens of a country whose own Indigenous people have little say in their own land.
The modern nation of Australia is a robust, multicultural democracy, brimming with opportunity of which we can be proud. But for many First Australians, its success has not resulted in improvements to their lives, while the scars of a fraught history still weigh on their communities, as they do on our nation as a whole.
Many of the wrongs have since been righted, but it is a work in progress and there is a still a long way to go. The proposal for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution is a modest request to ensure Australia’s Indigenous people are heard on matters that relate to them.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jillian Segal says that the Jewish community should not be frightened by a referendum to bring this about. It will not create a “third chamber of Parliament” as some have charged, nor will it introduce apartheid to Australia.
Indeed, the nine diverse faith leaders who signed the Joint Statement on Friday endorsed the reform “as necessary, right and reasonable”. Their support is further proof that, far from being controversial, the cause is morally just.
No one expects a referendum to change everything for the better overnight. But it is an important step in the right direction to allow Australia’s First Peoples their say on their future as part of our diverse nation.
But to happen, our nation needs to unite. The faith leaders who gathered at Barangaroo last Friday showed that this can be done.
As Jewish Australians with our own memory of oppression and liberation, it behoves us to support a referendum on this issue. Eighty-four years after Indigenous leader William Cooper marched to the German consulate in Melbourne to protest Kristallnacht and the treatment of the Jews in Europe, it is time for our community to support his people.
Because we cannot defend the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in our homeland without supporting the right of Indigenous Australians to a voice in theirs.