21 July, 2023

RAQ recently announced that we stand in favour of enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament. 

We’re deeply grateful for the generosity of our First Nations staff who shared their diverse voices, experiences, and perspectives throughout our journey to Yes. 

Today, we want to share the First Nations-led process we undertook to develop an organisational position on The Voice to Parliament referendum. 

Take a journey with Aunty Debra Bennet, Lead Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Engagement & Cultural Advisor, as she describes the steps that led us to Yes. 


1. An Invitation 

Our first step was to create space for our First Nations staff to share their diverse opinions on The Voice. 

Relationships Australia National (RAN) CEO Nick Tebbey invited the Relationships Australia Indigenous Network (RAIN) executive team to develop a response to The Voice Referendum to Parliament. 

This would be an opportunity to platform Truth-telling and encourage deep listening among our non-First Nations staff. 


2. Building Blocks 

The RAIN executive team came together in May to discuss whether they were willing and able to develop a response considering the heightened media coverage and recognition of the mounting pressure on our respective local First Nations Community members and leaders. 

They discussed the level of misinformation and a need for greater access to resources to inform respective communities about the background to the Voice Referendum. 

Building capacity for individuals, families, and communities to feel safe, supported, and informed throughout this political process was of utmost importance considering the impacts on First Nations community members, including members of our respective workforces. 


3. Coming Together 

RAIN executive members consulted respective First Nations Workforce members and held a face-to-face meeting in Adelaide with our national representatives to discuss a response to the national conversation to the Voice Referendum. 

Here, our First Nations staff from around the country were able to connect and share their voices. 

The RAIN executives presented a RAIN Statement on The Voice to the RAN CEOs for the first time. 


4. Listening and Learning 

The RAIN Statement provided an opportunity to connect and learn with open hearts and minds. 

RAN CEOs sat with all RAIN executive and representative staff, listening deeply to them as they shared their perspectives. RAN CEOs responded individually, and jointly accepted the statement.  

They each agreed to support the respective RAN First Nations Workforces to meet and discuss the RAIN Statement, and to consider their own position on this significant moment in Australian History.  

The RAN CEOs also agreed to respond effectively and sensitively to the RAIN Statement, reaffirming their commitment to prioritise cultural fitness throughout this journey and beyond. 


5. Truth-Telling 

Relationships Australia Queensland (RAQ) Board and CEO, Natasha Rae, supported RAQ’s First Nations employees to attend a First Nations Workforce Gathering in Brisbane in June 2023.  

RAQ First Nations staff, alongside Community Leaders and QLD Voice Coordinator Campaign 2023, discussed their shared historical, individual, and diverse perspectives, national milestones, and precedents leading to the current national conversation. 

They drew upon parallels between their collective voice within RAQ and RAIN as a collective voice within RAN and developed an RAQ First Nations Workforce Voice to Parliament Referendum Statement. 


6. Walking Forward Together 

On day two of the Gathering, the members of the RAQ First Nations Workforce sat with RAQ CEO Natasha Rae, and Chair of RAQ Board Bill Owens, and reflected upon the journey they as First Nations community members have been on with mainstream Australia and as members of Relationships Australia Workforce. 

They delivered the RAQ First Nations Workforce statement on the Voice to Parliament Referendum to Natasha and Bill. 

Together, Natasha and Bill unreservedly supported the advice and guidance provided by RAIN and the RAQ First Nations Workforce, developing their own CEO and Chair Joint Statement on The Voice in response. 

They developed a public campaign to: 

  • Further commit to safe and respectful workplaces and conversations for all First nations Workforce members and our colleagues 
  • Provide all relevant resources for safe and respectful conversations with the entire RAQ workforce 
  • Share the respective Statements on the Voice to Parliament Referendum, including relevant resources for safe and respectful communities, through our digital platforms and allied networks. 

Natasha expressed her gratitude for our First Nations Workforce throughout this journey in the CEO and Chair Joint Statement: 

“We respect the toll it takes on First Nations Peoples to educate, advocate, and repeatedly share their wisdom. We express our deepest gratitude for the generosity of our First Nations staff members and communities throughout our collaborative journey to Yes. 

By elevating the voices of our First Nations Workforce, we can more accurately assess the history of this country and walk together on a journey to a more just and healing future.” 

You can read the Relationships Australia Qld organisational statement of support for enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament here.