Trying to answer the question of why

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The burning deck.Credit: Cathy Wilcox

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I was one of the thousands proudly walking for Yes on Sunday. I was stopped several times by international visitors asking what was happening. I said we were there to support a referendum to recognise that Indigenous Australians were here first and that through a Voice they can have a say in matters that affect them. The visitors were shocked that this wasn’t already in existence and when I explained that there are some against this, they all asked why. I couldn’t answer them because there is no why.
Samantha Keir, East Brighton

Rallies are a show of force
The big rallies for Yes across the nation show that many Australians do not want to slap reconciliation in the face, or prolong bureaucratic disregard and neglect of Indigenous communities. This is the stark choice before us in this referendum on the Voice. If we don’t change it now, when? I’ve yet to hear a credible or coherent alternative that supports progress from the No side.
Jim Allen, Panorama, SA

Echoes of moratorium marches
On Sunday, I walked, along with thousands of others along Flinders Street to Federation Square. We sang, smiled to onlookers and chatted to friends, all in the name of Yes for a Voice to parliament. It reminded me of my first public demonstration, a Vietnam Moratorium march through Sydney streets in 1971. The rallying cry then was ″⁣Stop the War″⁣ and ″⁣Bring them Home″⁣. The moratorium marches were successful, as I believe these Yes marches throughout our country will be. Their essence is decency, a fairer world and a brighter future for Indigenous families, indeed for us all.
Jen Martin, Northcote

Kicking with the wind, at last
Walking down Swanston Street on Sunday, I estimated the crowd to be ″⁣half an MCG″⁣ of Yes supporters. It’s a typical Melbourne unit of measurement for this time of year. Most of us most likely have been having conversations about the referendum since the start of the footy season. Now as we enter the last four weeks of the campaign, it feels like the finals are about to start. Sunday was just the inspiration we needed to get the nation to a positive result on the final day of October 14. Firstly on the train, then at the State Library, on the walk and again at Federation Square and surrounds, there were tens of thousands of ordinary, peaceful citizens generously supporting our First Nations sisters and brothers.
Feels like we might just be ″⁣kicking with the wind″⁣ at last.
Russell Crellin, Greensborough

Start where you are, change the ending
Such terrible things were done in the name of colonisation down the ages. For centuries, colonisation, as a natural event, was largely unquestioned and now forms part of history we cannot change. Today, we recoil at the thought. History surrounds us in place names, buildings and social structures and we are forced to live alongside the vestiges of our past. In a reflection often attributed to C.S. Lewis, ″⁣You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.″⁣ It is in this spirit of hope that I will vote Yes.
Ken George, Geelong

Go to the high ground, and watch
I refer to Bob Carr’s article about the film High Ground (Comment, 18/9). I, too, saw the film in early 2022. While the content was not new to me, the dramatic presentation took my understanding of what our First Nations people have had to endure to a new level. The film should be compulsory viewing. If that were to happen, I do not think even the No campaigners would continue their opposition to what is a deserved start to righting many wrongs.
Steve Griffin, West Coburg


It’s a bad look
It is like pouring water off a duck’s back pointing out the nepotistic-like appointments to water and hospital boards or other authorities in Victoria (″⁣Water board jobs put focus on Labor appointments, 18/9). Both sides of politics don’t seem to ″⁣get″⁣ how bad the optics are as they appoint their retired mates to cushy jobs. How can politicians wonder why they are one of the most distrusted groups in the community?
Andrea Plantinga, Point Lonsdale

Benefits of tax increases
The article ″⁣Sports clubs or roads″⁣ (18/9), is another example of the challenges facing all governments across the country and is part of the wider difficulty of funding infrastructure that will benefit everyone including railways, roads, tunnels, hospitals and schools. We are tax averse as a nation and are unable to see the connection between income and expenditure. All governments are reticent, if not fearful, of raising the GST or other taxes due to the backlash they expect from business and the wider community.
We daily read of shortages in housing, or medical services, and inadequate road maintenance, yet squirm and oppose tax increases to fund them. This is occurring at a time when our wealth as a nation continues to grow at the cost of the least able to benefit.
Ray Cleary, Camberwell

Collaborative future
Education design consultant Mary Featherston (Comment, 18/9) understands teaching and learning. She points out that simply “walling up open spaces” is not the solution for schools, but that “intentionally designed” creative spaces make for better learning. The headline “Open spaces don’t make for better learning” does not do justice to her invaluable insights.
Collaboration is the way of the future and those who would have us return to a ’50s model of instruction should stay away from curriculum decisions as well as classroom design.
Susan Mahar, Fitzroy North

R is for reminiscing
The reprinted article about the R rating (″⁣An Age Ago″⁣, 18/9) is so far out of date that it is almost amusing. If only the solution was so simple now. The internet now enables access to R, XXX and far worse but there seems to be no way to stop it. The police try to protect everyone from the worst but as every report shows, they are only working with the tip of the problem. Truly, the good old days were better than the modern world in so many ways.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

US needs new blood
Oh, the bitter ironies! Donald Trump lambasts Joe Biden for his age and his apparently faltering mind, all the while confusing him with Barack Obama and warning of the threat of WWII. I don’t mean to sound ageist, but can’t America find someone who’s not a doddery old white/orange guy to lead it?
Matt Dunn, Leongatha

Walking with hope
I was at the Melbourne walk for Yes yesterday. How beautiful and heartening it was to see thousands of people walking together in such love and positivity. It gives me hope that on October 14 Australians will reject fear and division, and vote for a better future.
Cate Broadbent, Yarraville

Flawed abstraction
Sean Kelly is correct in saying that much of the debate about the Voice has been conducted in an abstract manner (Comment, 18/9).
This detachment from reality is encapsulated by the government’s portrayal of the Voice as a unifying idea, derisively called a ″⁣vibe″⁣, and its continued reluctance to provide details of how it will operate in practice.
The government has had numerous opportunities to explain how, for instance, the problems faced by Indigenous communities in Alice Springs, would be reduced by the Voice. Its failure to get down to such nitty gritty matters creates the impression that the Voice is more an abstraction than a practical solution.
Rod Wise, Surrey Hills

Echoes of chief protector
One of the more disquieting aspects of the referendum discussions has been the archaic and paternalistic attitudes of many No supporters towards Indigenous people. It is as if we are back in the 1930s when A.O. Neville, then Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, presided over the Stolen Generations’ policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families, a blunt assimilationist strategy premised on what was termed ″⁣biological absorption″⁣.
As Neville framed it, such an approach meant that the white community could, in his words, ″⁣eventually forget that there were any Aborigines in Australia″⁣. In historic words that resonate today in the attitudes of some white Australians, the Indigenous people, according to Neville, ″⁣have to be protected against themselves, whether they like it or not″⁣.
Bizarrely, in 2023, some No camp proponents also portray Indigenous pro-Voice spokespeople as racially divisive, a point of view that no doubt the zealous Neville would have endorsed.
Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

United, let us stand
How absurd that the beautiful song I am Australian could have been suitable for both the Yes and No side of the referendum (″⁣How the Yes campaign almost had a different voice″⁣, 17/9). Regardless of the result on October 14, let’s play it after the final count because, national unity is essential.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

Correcting mistakes
As a child born to post-war immigrant parents, I do not understand the hoopla regarding the referendum. The Voice will not take away any rights or freedoms that we already have as Australians. Racism, sexism and all the other isms will always exist.
The fact that Indigenous peoples’ lifespan is eight to 10 years less than everyone else tells us that there is something wrong. The Voice is an opportunity to correct this. If we believe in an egalitarian society, we need to look to the future and vote Yes to correct the mistakes of the past.
Maria Liew (nee Kokoszka),

Be rid of lobbyists, too
The Voice is just that, a voice that will have no powers or means of enforcing any action.
If you must vote No, then at the very least demand the removal of all the other voices who operate in Canberra. The lobbyists, who for a great deal of money, are able to gain access to members of parliament and members of staff. It is something that is denied ordinary folk. The lobbyists’ trade is to gain special conditions and influence legislation on behalf of special interest groups, like banking, farming and mining.
It must be of concern that First Nations people are still the most disadvantaged, the most incarcerated, those with the shortest life span. Surely after 200 years of ″⁣ordering and telling″⁣ it is now time to try a bit of ″⁣listening″⁣?
Cushla McNamara, Hawthorn

Different tastes
Back in 1965, when Ron Barassi caused a stir by leaving Melbourne to coach for Collingwood, there was a joke doing the rounds. A man went into a bottle shop and said, ″⁣Give me some of that Barossa, you know, the kind that made Carlton United and Melbourne Bitter.″⁣
Pam O’Connor, Hawthorn

Livestock care
Good on you Judy Croagh (“And this little piggy was one of the last”, 18/9) and other small meat producers who genuinely care about the end of life of their stock. Small travel distances and smaller specialist abattoirs have always been a more ethical and commercially smart option and we must protect the smaller farmers and processors from foreign takeovers by campaigning on their behalf.
April von Moger, Ashburton

UN teams needed
The recent disasters in Morocco and Libya have emphasised the need for the UN to set up a rapid-response, highly mobile, well-equipped relief unit to be available to go to any part of the world where the need arises.
John Walsh, Watsonia

Return of Neighbours
Neighbours has returned to TV, rescued by public demand and the help of an international consortium. Beamed to many nations it further showcases Australian society. Good or bad themes, the series has universal appeal. Some actors may become our future stars. Victoria, take pride in this product. In life, we look for the familiar. May it be the evening wallpaper for all who enjoy its entertainment.
Mike Fogarty, Weston, ACT

Flood query
Without entering into the pros and cons of the proposals for constructions on a flood plain in Werribee, surely the first question to be asked is, why build on land that requires significant flood mitigation work prior to any construction (″⁣A new road or a junior cricket ground?″⁣, 18/9).
April Baragwanath, Geelong

Wrong priorities
What an inspiring and courageous account of Dr Richard Scolyer, his extraordinary life and research and now fight for survival (Good Weekend, 16/9). He is surely a hero of medical science. In the page following that article, there was a report about Tasmania’s struggle to build a football stadium and that the Tasmanian government would contribute $240 million towards its completion. In contrast it was reported that Dr Scolyer’s world-renowned research institute ″⁣occasionally receives government grants but is mostly reliant on philanthropy”. One must ask, what is wrong with the nation’s priorities?
Marie Rogers, Kew

Another loss for Pies
I’m sure this won’t affect Carlton’s planet alignment (Letters, 18/9) but Brisbane Lions beat Collingwood at the MCG in August.
Diana Paton, Armadale


Without Kevin Neale’s five goals in the 1966 grand final, St Kilda would not have won its solitary premiership. If our club had not won, I doubt we would have survived to this our 150th year.
Mark Cherny, Caulfield

Many years ago, Kevin ″⁣Cowboy″⁣ Neale and two other St Kilda players painted our back fence to make an extra few bob. My son was quite the hero at school.
Myra Fisher, Brighton East

I wish I still had my childhood plastic ″⁣Ron Barassi superboots″⁣.
Ian Macdonald, Traralgon

The Wallabies are to be commended for improving Australia’s relationship with Fiji.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

The Voice
I’m confused. Does the No campaign say that the British did the First Australians a favour when they turned up in what is now Sydney in 1788?
Hans Paas, Castlemaine

A Voice is only effective if we listen. That is the heart of it.
Keith Hallett, Gisborne

The greatest fear the No campaigners would have of the Voice is that it may well work.
David Tilley, Aspendale

If the Indigenous vote is so adamantly divided over the Voice, how can they expect the rest of us to support it?
Martin Newington, Aspendale

The issue of political appointments will never go away as governments (Labor now) continue to appoint their mates to plum paid jobs.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South

Monday’s Quiz, 15 out of 15, first time. The answers came to me like I knew them just a day or two ago.
Doug Perry, Mt Martha

I think I’m about to become a vegetarian. The photo did it for me (“And this little piggy was one of the last”, 18/9).
Lawrie Bradly, Surrey Hills

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