In just ten days Australians will decide whether to amend the Constitution to formally recognise Indigenous Peoples of Australia by establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice — an independent body that advises the parliament and executive government on policies affecting First Nations Peoples.

As impact investors we support the creation of the Voice as it sets a precedent for constitutional inclusivity and social justice.

In addition to OnImpact and Impact Investment Asia’s support of the Voice, is a consortium of more than 20 of Australia’s leading philanthropists and family foundations — including the Besen Foundation, Jo Horgan’s Mecca M Power, the Nelson Meers Foundation, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Geoff Ainsworth’s Oranges and Sardines and The Myer Foundation. 

Together they have committed $17 million in support of the Yes campaign with funding used to escalate on-the-ground campaigning efforts and bolster the campaign.

Meaningful results will be delivered

Among the donors is the Snow Foundation, which is known for its early commitment to marriage equality and whose CEO, Georgina Byron, was a presenter at the Impact Investment Summit 2023.

“We know when you bring many together, you can make social change in a louder and more validated fashion. We’ve learnt over the years whether it’s advocacy or social change you need many people to get it right,” Byron said.

“We have seen first-hand that better outcomes are achieved when First Nations people have a voice at the table in the challenges that affect them. The Voice will have a fundamental and positive impact on Indigenous communities.” 

“We hope all Australians will recognise that meaningful results will be delivered through the Voice, while strengthening our democracy. Let’s welcome and grasp this huge opportunity to make Australia a more equitable and inclusive society.” 

Byron provided an example of the change possible, saying “We know, for example, that rheumatic heart disease is a disease that could be a priority for the Voice. With two Indigenous children dying each week from this preventable disease, we must do more”.

Bold and courageous

Kristy Muir, the newly appointed chief executive of Paul Ramsay Foundation, which earlier donated $5 million donation to Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition (AICR), said “We have to be bold, and we have to be courageous enough to be public about things that we know are drivers for change.”

Australian Communities Foundation director Chris Croker observed that, “The vast majority of donors we work with are happy to support the Voice” and, “even though there’s a political divide in Canberra, I don’t think that translates across the Australian community”.

“By practically listening to Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, we can have more efficiency in tackling systemic changes, which are legacies of colonisation. It’s past time to get these things fixed.”

Having pledged to raise $1 million to create positive outcomes in the referendum, Australian Communities Foundation will donate to Yes23, Passing the Message Stick and the Uluru Dialogue.

Moving forward as a nation

Hansen Little Foundation’s Jane Hansen, who is also Melbourne University chancellor and philanthropist, said the voice to parliament would help unify Australia. 

“The Voice is part of a three-stage process. It’s essential, so we may reconcile our past, how we came to occupy this land and how we treated First Nations”, she said.

“Only then will we be able to move forward, feel united and proud as a nation. And First Nations people deserve a stronger and more direct say in how to manage their own”, but first, “People need to separate out the blatant political partisanship and make their own informed assessment.”

The $17 million in donations from the top philanthropists also come from the Annamila First Nations Foundation, Australian Communities Foundation, the Balnaves Foundation, the Barlow Impact Group, Dusseldorp Forum, the Reichstein Foundation, the Albert family’s Tony Foundation, the Wyatt Foundation, Perpetual and the Ross Trust. 

As well said by Uluru Dialogue co-chair Megan Davis, “Getting to Yes in the referendum will be such a powerful thing for our young people. It will be transformative… the reform is to create a culture in which the government, the bureaucracy, the parliament just consult with mob from day one.”

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