More than a century ago, the framers of the Australian constitution set out to create one country out of six different colonies.
To create one Australian nation, the only nation that spanned a continent on the entire Earth.
Our country wasn't called a kingdom or a state, rather we called ourselves a "commonwealth".
The idea of a commonwealth is that no matter where we are from - from the Pilbara to Penrith or from Darwin to Devonport, we all share in the future and bounty of this land.
As a commonwealth, we also share in many of its decisions. At a referendum, the small states have the same power as the most populous states. In a commonwealth that is how it should be.
I will be voting "yes" to recognition. I will be voting "yes" to a safe constitutional change.
Most importantly, I will be voting "yes" to giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a say on the policies and laws that directly affect them.
At the 1999 republican referendum, republicans proposed a model that made 69 changes to the constitution. It was a big change.
By contrast, this change is the addition of only one new section of the constitution. It is a small change, with only upside. As former Chief Justice of Australia Robert French says: "The Voice is a big idea but not a complicated one. It is low risk for a high return"
I believe we have one of the best constitutions in the world. It has been integral to our success as a nation.
Across so many measures, Australia is one of the most successful multicultural nations on Earth, yet the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is profoundly different.
As we reflect at this referendum we must also consider the status quo that we are dealing with. Today in our country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians face chronic ill-health - with Aboriginal people, on average, living eight years less than other Australians.
The Indigenous unemployment rate is nine times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians, and Indigenous boys are more likely to go to jail than university.
The risk in this referendum is not change, it's a continuation of the same-old, same-old. As a conservative, I've wondered for a long-time why we are consistently failing to make any real progress on Indigenous health, education, housing, safety and economic advancement. This is despite bipartisan goodwill and meaningful investment.
I believe the answer is cultural and is found in the words of the poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Indigenous Australians want "freedom, not frustration; self-respect, not resignation".
All too often, Canberra and decision-makers in state capitals, make decisions for and not with Indigenous communities and in so doing, we rob them of the agency that can help their communities grow
It was a point made by the Productivity Commission in its recent Closing the Gap report. The Commission said: "There appears to be an assumption that 'governments know best' ... Too many government agencies are implementing versions of shared decision making that involve consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on a pre-determined solution, rather than collaborating on the problem and co-designing a solution."
The Voice is about changing this mindset. It's about giving voice and respect to local and regional communities. It's about forsaking a belief that we know best. Only then do I believe we can make a meaningful difference.
The decision of our forebears to vote for federation a century and a quarter ago was a statement of faith about our country and each other. It was a commitment by six different peoples to trust each other.
All Australians can make that same commitment to our Indigenous brothers and sisters. We can fully welcome them into our commonwealth through recognition and a seat at the table.
On referendum day, we can take the next step on our national journey, by providing constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians and by creating a Voice so that they can be heard.
- Julian Leeser is the Liberal member for Berowra in NSW. He is the former shadow attorney-general and shadow minister for Indigenous Australians and an active member of Liberals for Yes.