The oldest living culture on Earth is still here, in Australia.
All who came after are immigrants, beginning with the colonists, and what the colonists did continues to affect the original inhabitants to this day.
Our lack of willingness to properly acknowledge the past has caused intergenerational trauma and that, exacerbated too often by racism, means First Nations peoples are vastly over-represented in prisons. They die 10 years before we do. Young people are three times more likely to die by suicide. The list goes on.
A Voice will provide a mechanism for us to listen.
As disability rights activist James Charlton said in 1998, there must be "nothing about us without us", a principle adopted by Indigenous people and activist groups globally since to ensure their participation in discussions affecting them.
A Voice also acknowledges that millennia of accumulated wisdom is something to be valued.
The "facts" being spread by some Voice opponents in that hotbed of misinformation, social media, highlight the empathy missing from the debate. Imagine if strangers had arrived and taken our homes?
Killed us, raped us, introduced disease and destroyed the land that we'd cared for over countless generations? How would we have felt about sitting quietly with our families one day and the next, never seeing our parents or kids again, not knowing what had happened to them because the children had been taken away "for their own good"?
It's like Trump's America. The "no" case is putting out calls to form an army of "no" campaigners, telling us we'll lose our land and have to pay to go to the beach. And it's largely because of a deliberate scare campaign, coming straight from the top.
Last week I received an email from would-be prime minister Peter Dutton, a serial non-listener - first the Apology in 2008, then the desperate pleas of asylum-seekers when he was minister and now, the majority of First Nations Peoples who want a Voice.
"We need your support to push back this risky and divisive voice."
The Uluru Statement refers to a Makarrata as the coming together after a struggle. Hardly divisive.
"Despite what Mr Albanese says, this Voice proposal goes much further than simply recognising Indigenous Australians."
How much further?
When colonists came to this country and took it for themselves, they did so as if the joint was conveniently empty. The constitution makes no mention of the original inhabitants either, as if to confirm terra nullius.
The proposal to address this absence and provide a Voice begins: In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
1. There shall be a body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
"It covers all areas of 'executive government'. Basically, no issue would be beyond its reach."
2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
3. The Parliament shall, subject to the 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.
Simple. The people we've entrusted to make laws on our behalf could decide what a Voice could do and how it might work, allowing First Nations people to participate in discussions about issues affecting them.
"Incredibly, Mr Albanese recently admitted he hasn't read additional pages that, until recently, leading Voice proponents said were part of the Uluru Statement."
Interested in the Uluru Statement since 2017, I've only ever found one page. Now, suddenly, people are talking about a mysterious wad of additional pages.
"The Prime Minister isn't good with details. And his government is refusing to provide details. For example, we don't know how members of the Voice would be chosen or how it would operate. Australians are being asked to vote before these details are worked out."
The constitution is about principles. Details are for legislation, introduced to parliaments, then debated and decided by the people we've elected.
"Enshrining the Voice into the constitution would mean it's permanent."
Yes. Then without a referendum another government couldn't come along and immediately abolish it.
The AEC is powerless to correct any misinformation published in the pamphlet distributed to every Australian household, so SBS presented the claims of both cases to the RMIT FactLab. FactLab had little argument with what "yes" had to say.
In contrast, it refuted many of the "no" claims.
Dutton uses them too: "It risks legal challenges and delays. The High Court would ultimately decide its powers."
"Some Voice supporters say this will be a first step to reparations and compensation and other radical changes."
FactLab: "Claims that the Voice could use the High Court to force policy outcomes, alter the content of laws or change a government decision - such as land grabs or forced reparations payments - have no legal basis."
The SBS's full report on FactLab's findings is available online.
Some say treaties must come first. While treaties take years, a Voice can happen now. Already, the Commonwealth and every state government except WA has committed to treaties, with Victoria in front. First Nations peoples can use a Voice to lead the process for truth-telling, their way and in their own time.
When speaking about the Voice, senator David Pocock observed that "when you make decisions out of fear, you are heading to a smaller life".
First Nations musician Nardi Simpson said that it was the beginning of togetherness and the readjusting of a relationship.
"I will stand straighter and taller because I'll know that the people around me care."
Far from dividing us, First Nations peoples have offered us the Voice as a way to walk forward together. It may mean that they say things we don't want to hear. But it's high time we listened.
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