SNHN’s response to the result of the Voice to Parliament, constitutional change Referendum of 14 October 2023

On Saturday, 14 October, the Australian people were asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a single question. 

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?” 

The vote aimed to change our country’s constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples and give First Nations people a direct voice to the Australian Government, enabling them to advise on the policies that affect them. 

The SNHN Board and Executive acknowledge that the referendum outcome was not what they had envisaged. The SNHN Board and Executive issued a statement prior to the vote favouring the Voice to Parliament and shared a unified regard to support a Yes vote. We believed a Voice would play a role in helping achieve equality and eliminate health disparities confronted by our First Nation’s People. The Board and many other people in our organisation now share a sense of sadness that the outcome we sought was not favoured. 

While the October 14 result was unsuccessful, the conversation does not end here. The opportunity to listen and learn from First Nations peoples continues to be one of our greatest privileges and opportunities as a nation.   

After last weekend’s referendum result, our collective thoughts are with our First Nations people, particularly those we partner with in our region through the First Nation’s Collaboration and the communities we work alongside. We understand that the referendum process has been a difficult journey for many First Nations people. This difficulty is amplified by the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research, Australian National University. The research indicates that First Nations peoples may be experiencing stress, uncertainty, increased racism, re-traumatisation as well as pressure to educate others, especially non-Indigenous Australians, about the referendum. 

As an organisation, we work to prioritise improved health outcomes for people. One of our priorities is to support the well-being and safety of our First Nations communities so they can navigate this time with our concern, care and an understanding of what assistance can be available. 

The following care services are available to all First Nations people, and anyone impacted or affected by the outcomes of Australia’s recent referendum. 

13YARN (13 92 76) – A national helpline for First Nations people, available 24 hours, 7 days a week https://www.13yarn.org.au/ 

Head to Health for free mental health advice and support. Call 1800 595 212 

WellMob: online resources available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help with social, emotional, and cultural well-being from the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet https://wellmob.org.au/ 

Headstart: For local service providers and health professionals based on your eligibility, please see https://headstart.org.au/northern-sydney/ 

Be kind to yourself. Please offer a friendly hand and an open ear to those around you. We are always better together. 

Thank you, the Sydney North Health Network team. 

– ENDS –