Updated: Oct 27
In less than a week, all eligible Australians will be asked to vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum.
But as October 14 fast approaches, some councils around the country have already taken steps to improve consultation between local government and First Nations communities.
Earlier this year, Wyndham City Council in Melbourne’s western suburbs passed a Notice of Motion in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, calling it an “opportunity for reconciliation”.
But according to Rob Monohan, a member of the Wyndham Reconciliation Advisory Committee, the council’s “reconciliation journey is completely separate from The Voice to Parliament”.
Rob is a 63-year-old Taungurung man from the Kulin Nations of Victoria and a “strong supporter” of the Voice.
“The only way that major changes can be implemented is through the federal government via the Voice,” he said.
However, Rob believes “engagement” with local Indigenous communities and improved access to services is “what is needed” from the local council.
“In the last 15 years, Wyndham Council have been very oriented in the Aboriginal space,” he said.
“But there is still a lot to be done.”
Rob worked for the Wyndham City Council for 34 years as the Leading Hand of Arboriculture.
As a member of the Advisory Committee, he helped the council adopt their 2023-2025 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) after months of public consultation.
The Committee, composed of eight Indigenous volunteer community members and three non-Indigenous volunteer community members, will guide Wyndham’s implementation of their RAP.
Rob believes that local governments should not have the same scope of focus when addressing reconciliation, as the Voice does.
“The Voice to Parliament and Wyndham’s RAP are separate, as the Voice will cover all the issues. For example, Closing the Gap, Stolen Generations, deaths in custody, Treaty, truth-telling and acknowledgement and reparations for all those and all other crimes that have happened since colonisation,” Rob said.
“Wyndham’s RAP is about local issues…health, education and employment.”
Rob wants an increase in the number of youth services, employment services and maternal health clinics in Wyndham because “in the West, there is not a lot”.
“From a Wyndham point of view and as a local Aboriginal man, the services here are non-existent,” he said.
These local changes that can be enacted or supported by Wyndham City Council “is what their journey of reconciliation must look like”.
Wyndham City Council states their RAP is focused on “Relationships, Respect, Opportunities, and Truth-Telling” to develop “innovative strategies that empower First Nations Peoples”.
Rob was also instrumental in the establishment of the Wunggurrwil Dhurrung Centre in Wyndham Vale as the co-chair of the Koling wada-ngal Committee.
The facility opened in 2019 and is a “beautiful centre” where residents can “engage” with Indigenous culture.
Wyndham City Council describes the centre as a “meeting place” to “recognise and celebrate Aboriginal perspective and history”.
“Go and have a look. Have a yarn and find out more,” Rob said.
In next month’s national referendum, Rob will be voting ‘Yes’.
“Our young people will be the beneficiaries of what could potentially come from that,” he said.
“We have got to get it through.”
For more information on the Voice, visit https://voice.gov.au/.