Opinion Piece – The Voice

Australia is the best country in the world.

There are lots of reasons for that, but one of the reasons is that we look out for each other.

Think about when there’s a bushfire or when there’s a flood. We get together and we help each other out.

Mateship isn’t a made-up national myth. It’s what we do and it’s who we are. We don’t leave our mates behind.

But there are a group of Australians who are behind.

If you’re a young Indigenous person today, you’re less likely to go to preschool, you’re more likely to fall behind at primary school and you’re more likely to drop out of high school.

And, if you’re a young Indigenous bloke today, you’re more likely to go to jail than to university.

That’s despite decades of good intentions and billions and billions of dollars that have been invested.

The No campaign says we don’t need a Voice. Canberra politicians have all the answers. They should just do their job.

Well, that hasn’t worked for the last few decades.

If we are serious about closing the gap between black and white Australians we have to do more than just change what we do. We have to change the way we do things.

The Voice does two things.

One, it recognises the fact that Australia didn’t start when Captain Cook set foot on the shore of Botany Bay in 1770. That Indigenous Australians have been here for more than 60,000 years.

Two, it’s about listening. Listening to the people we all want to help about what will work best. What’s the best use of taxpayers’ money.

Think about this. It costs taxpayers, on average, $11,000 every year to send an Australian to university. It costs taxpayers $148,000 a year to send an Australian to jail.

That’s $11,000 a year to set someone up for life and $148,000 a year to lock someone up for life.

The cost of locking up a young person in the juvenile justice system is even more. More like $1 million a year.

What if better policies made by listening to people who know what they’re talking about, helped more young Indigenous people to finish school and go on to university, rather than to jail?

Wouldn’t that be a better use of taxpayers’ money?

That’s what the Voice is all about.

Jason Clare is the Minister for Education

This piece originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday 10 August 2023.