Former ABC journalist Stan Grant discussed the defeat of the Voice in a powerful 2023 JG Crawford Oration.
ANU Reporter Senior Writer
Professor Stan Grant broke his silence on the Voice referendum, sharing his reflections and disappointment about the outcome, at The Australian National University Crawford Leadership Forum.
Grant, who is now the inaugural Director of Monash University’s Constructive Institute Asia Pacific, delivered an emotional address titled ‘The witness of poetry,’ in which he mourned the loss and discussed what it means for First Nations Australians.
“The voice to me, was never about resentment. It was never about identity,” Grant said.
“It was a release. It was a moment to lay our burdens down.
“But Australia would not shoulder that load. Instead, we got a lecture about unity.”
His speech came just weeks after the referendum, where the proposal to establish a constitutionally-enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament was comprehensively defeated.
More than 60 per cent of Australians rejected the proposal and no state recorded a majority – the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was the only state or territory to record a majority ‘yes’ vote. To pass, the proposal needed a double majority of more than 50 per cent of voters and four out of the six states.
Grant, who stepped away from the ABC in May, was critical of the media’s performance during the campaign, saying it too often reduced the debate to games of ‘gotcha’ and evasion.
“Everyone knows their role. It may sometimes result in a headline but rarely truth,” Grant said.
“Not the big truths: how land is stolen without repatriation; how countries are invaded with no accountability; how people are killed without conscience; how the poor stay poor; how money buys speech…these truths that democracies hide so well…these truths remain undisturbed.
“These truths are silenced.”
As a proud Wiradjuri man, Grant joined many First Nations Australians in a week of silence and mourning after the result of the referendum, a decision he says he was grateful for.
“On a night my people would be denied a voice, I will not add mine.
“White Australian journalists might have the privilege of neutrality. But that stops at the graveside for me.”
Grant said the referendum result is a lost opportunity for reconciliation.
“Politicians who can’t bear too much truth already reaching for meaningless political piffle: healing and reconciliation. Words reduced to such polite convenience.
“The Voice was never a modest ask, it was monumental. Perhaps this was the opportunity lost by the ‘yes’ campaign, to not let the Voice truly speak.
“The constitution is not our problem. Our conscience is our problem.
“I thought we could find a Voice.”
Watch Professor Grant’s 2023 JG Crawford Oration in full via ANU TV on YouTube.
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