10 October 2023
A message of support from CEO of Welcome to Country – Desmond Campbell
As a proud Gurindji and Alawa-Ngalakan man, I have extensive experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to empower First Nations communities and promote self-determination. That’s why I wholeheartedly support the Yes vote in the referendum.
Welcome to Country holds a unique position and vision in today’s social and political landscape. It stands at the forefront of a cultural shift in Australia, where we continuously strive to empower First Nations communities in various ways.
Establishing a constitutional mechanism that allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in the decision-making process regarding laws and policies that affect their communities is a crucial step towards meaningful reconciliation and a more equitable future for our country.
Growing up in Katherine as the youngest of 14 siblings, I could relate to the significance of the Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow.’ This iconic Australian protest song pays tribute to the Gurindji people, my people, and Vincent Lingiari leading the Wave Hill Walk-Off, which have become symbols of the broader movement for Indigenous equality and land rights in Australia.
Throughout my career, I have been involved in public service work, particularly within the justice sector and in addressing domestic and family violence. I have also played a role in developing a gender equity strategy with the Anti-Discrimination Commission, and more recently, I served as a Senior Executive Officer for the Attorney General and Justice Department of the Northern Territory.
I have witnessed the failings within our system, including Australia’s education system, which inadequately provides cultural knowledge of First Nations and perpetuates a cultural disconnect. It is disheartening that while I was learning a foreign language, my own language and the rich cultural heritage of over 65,000 years were overlooked in favour of emphasising Australia’s colonial history.
We acknowledge that this is a sensitive and complex topic for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, with diverse perspectives. Please take the time to reflect and remember the Voice came from a Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement where representatives met at Uluru and decided on the statement. Now, we have around 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders supporting the Voice. We understand that engaging in this conversation might be challenging for some. Regardless of your voting intention, I encourage you to seek first to understand one another, approach the discussion with kindness and respect, and consider being part of a historic moment of change for all Australians.