Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned this story contains images and mentions of a deceased person.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will invoke the words of the late Yunupingu when he calls on Australians ready to vote Yes in the upcoming referendum to convince those still dubious.
Speaking at the Garma Festival in Gulkula in north East Arnhem Land on Saturday, Mr Albanese will deliver a call to arms, asking Australians to broaden the spirit of Garma to encapsulate the whole country.
After a week in parliament dominated with questions about whether a successful Voice vote would pave the way for a treaty – and what that would look like – Mr Albanese used his speech to appeal to Australians already convinced of voting Yes.
With just four of 19 Closing the Gap targets on track, Mr Albanese reinforced his message that only the Voice would make practical steps to close the persistent gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
He said he was sure Australians who knew that Indigenous people were twice as likely to commit suicide, had a life expectancy eight years shorter than their non-Indigenous counterparts, and had shocking rates of disease, wanted to do something.
“This year, there is a simple answer (to ‘what can we do?’): We can vote Yes,” Mr Albanese will say.
“And friends, just as importantly, we can convince our fellow Australians to vote Yes as well.”
He will say that it is a conversation for sporting teammates, worshippers, colleagues, political supporters and members of multicultural communities to have with each other.
“And, at the heart of it all, is a conversation between generations. Young Australians talking to their parents and their grandparents about what this moment represents,” he will say.
“Explaining just what voting Yes can mean for our country and our future. Making it clear that there is nothing to fear – and so much to gain. And making it plain that there is no time to waste.”
Standing firm against the opposition’s calls to delay the referendum or change the question to one of just constitutional recognition without the Voice, Mr Albanese will say: “We will not deny the urgency of this moment. We will not kick the can down the road.
“We will not abandon substance for symbolism or retreat to platitudes at the expense of progress.
“Prime ministers and governments may have come and gone but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been clear. The form of constitutional recognition they are seeking is a Voice.
“Not our sympathy, not a symbol – a vehicle for progress … Not just something that will feel good, something that will do good.”
Earlier in his speech, Mr Albanese will pay tribute to Yunupingu, saying that while there was still a part of him that expected the late Gumatj man to be in the crowd, he knew Australians were prepared to honour his life’s work when they head to the polls for the vote later this year.
“How fitting that he devoted his life to seeking change in a spirit of unity. Momentous national change, yet also practical local change,” Mr Albanese will say.
“This is the very same aspiration the Uluru Statement from the Heart holds for every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child … ‘Their culture will be a gift to their country’.
“ … The genius of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and all the elders and leaders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who poured their hopes and aspirations and effort and goodwill into it is that it doesn’t just articulate the noble goal of a better future, it offers Australia the practical means to achieve it.”