Thomas Mayo and Kerry O'Brien's The Voice to Parliament Handbook is a clear and informative look at how the Voice to Parliament may address ‘many ingrained wrongs’. Xavier Donovan takes a look at how this book helps to inform the debate.
THE VOICE TO PARLIAMENT is a proposed constitutional amendment in Australia aimed at providing permanent representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the Constitution. It's designed to give these communities input into governmental decisions, policies, and laws that impact them.
Thomas Mayo and Kerry O’Brien’s The Voice to Parliament Handbook is a relatively easy-to-digest outline of how and why the Voice to Parliament referendum should be implemented. The combination of an Indigenous and non-Indigenous author allows for a relatable and well-rounded perspective on matters involving the Voice to Parliament.
As a First Nations leader, Mayo provides valuable insight into the Voice. Thomas Mayo is a Kaurareg Aboriginal and Kalkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander man, union official, and advocate for a constitutionally enshrined Voice. He's authored four books involving Indigenous themes, contributes to various publications and serves in multiple advisory roles within diversity councils and labour networks.
Mayo sets the tone of the book immediately in the preface by detailing the creation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart — a petition formed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, to which he is a signatory, which spurred the Australian Government into calling the Voice to Parliament Referendum.
Through this, he motivates readers by proving that progress can be made towards bridging the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. However, he also emphasises how societal improvements can only take effect if enough people come together and support change — an aspect which is integral to the implementation of the Voice.
Mayo also dedicates an entire chapter to discussing how important conversations are to the Voice’s execution. He illustrates how the average Australian can do much more to support the Voice than simply voting ‘Yes’, by beginning a dialogue with their own inner circle. This section is really powerful as it highlights the influence each and every individual has on this nation’s future.
Unlike Mayo, Kerry O’Brien is not an Indigenous Australian. Although his contribution may lack authenticity in that regard, his credibility lies in his experiences as a journalist reporting in Aboriginal communities — a point O'Brien makes in the opening chapters. A distinguished Australian journalist, O'Brien's career spans many years as a television presenter and interviewer. Specialising in politics, economics and investigative reporting, O’Brien has written two books and worked extensively in public broadcasting, including hosting renowned programs such as Four Corners, The 7.30 Report and Lateline.
In the second chapter, O’Brien gives a historical summation of Indigenous struggles in Australia — information which is key to understanding the significance of the Voice. Through this, he illustrates the critical necessity for First Nations representation in parliament, thus providing context to readers who may question the essentiality of the Voice.
The FAQ section may be considered the most vital chapter in The Voice to Parliament Handbook. Not only does it summarise the main points from other chapters, but it discusses and offers counters to common arguments against the implementation of the Voice.
Overall, this book is a highly informative read. It remains simple yet still covers all relevant material needed for anyone who is trying to make an educated decision when voting on the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
The Voice to Parliament Handbook is available from Amazon for $12 (paperback) RRP.
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