Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria Says Yes
Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria Says Yes
Inquiry into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum
Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023
Submission by the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria
We welcome the opportunity to provide a submission to the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 Bill (Bill).
Who we are
The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne & Victoria is a non-profit organisation and is recognised as the peak Greek organisation in Melbourne, the third largest Greek speaking city in the world.
Established in 1897 by some of the first Greek residents of the City of Melbourne, with its roots in the early in 1890’s, it is the oldest Greek organisation in Australia and the second oldest Greek organisation of the diaspora after the Greek Community of Alexandria-Egypt.
Its founders were visionaries in their endeavours to create an organisation with a democratic structure that would serve the religious, cultural and educational needs of its members. For almost 120 years, the GOCMV has been, and continues to be, an advocate of cultural diversity by promoting our rich history to the residents of Victoria.
The organisation’s diverse and rich history is a testimony to the multicultural tapestry of Melbourne.
Today our organisation has over 5,000 individual members; making it the largest member based Greek organisation in Australia. In the spirit of its founding members, the Board of Management is committed to engaging its members in all matters pertaining to Greek-Australian residents of Melbourne and ensuring that it provides its members with the highest quality services possible.
We support constitutional recognition of the First Peoples of Australia
As an organisation that represents migrants and the children of migrants, we have worked hard to advocate for the right to practise our language and culture as citizens of this country. We respect the rights of Indigenous people to do the same and acknowledge that constitutional change is required to enshrine their position as the First Peoples of Australia in the Australian Constitution through a Voice. We acknowledge their ancient culture which is part of the history of this land and we believe the constitution must recognise their continued presence in this country over 65,000 years, a country that we, our parents and grandparents adopted as our homeland.
We have observed the tireless efforts made by many indigenous and non- indigenous people to achieve constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We cannot change the past, but we can do something about the future. To this end, the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria supports the Bill introduced to the Parliament on 30 March 2023 and its proposed change to the Constitution Chapter IX—Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
- (i) There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
- (ii) The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- (iii) The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
The proposal in this Bill to constitutionally recognise Indigenous Australians through a Voice is a modest request and a positive step forward for our nation.
We understand there is great support for the proposed change to the Constitution among the Australian people which includes a big percentage of people from diverse backgrounds.
There is a greater awareness of the rich history of the First Peoples and an understanding of the challenges they have faced as a result of colonisation.
Many legal experts have thrown their weight behind this campaign, confirming that a Voice to Parliament is a legally safe way to constitutionally recognise indigenous Australians.
Those who came before us in our community faced many challenges in a new land and many have empathy for the plight of indigenous people.
Our organisation which was founded on democratic principles, believes that the voice of the traditional owners of this land deserves a fair go. Currently the status quo for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with respect to life expectancy and quality of life is not good enough.
We can’t continue with policies and programs (some of which may have been well-intentioned) to address issues and expect a different result – we need to do something different. We believe indigenous people are best placed to understand their own challenges.
The Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria supports:
- Meaningful symbolic recognition of can be achieved through meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia in the Australian Constitution
- Practical recognition through a Voice
- The recognition that Indigenous people have long sought in the form they have requested.
Ultimately it is the Australian people that will ensure the referendum succeeds.
We will be supporting the Yes campaign and would be pleased to meet with you to discuss our submission.