As a registered nurse, CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) and a Wiradjuri descendant with extensive experience, and a longstanding commitment to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes, it has become increasingly important to me to share why I am voting Yes on October 14th.
This referendum is more than politics, it is personal, however let’s stick to the facts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to die, on average, 8.2 years earlier than non-Indigenous people in Australia. We are 2.9 times as likely to have long-term ear or hearing problems as children, a loss of hearing impacts behaviours, education, and wellbeing. We are 2.7 times as likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress, due to the impacts of intergenerational trauma and culturally unsafe systems, and our children are 2.1 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people are 2.3 times more likely to live with chronic disease. The gap is widening.
While we can celebrate an ever-growing number of Indigenous Doctors, data from the 2022 Medical Trainee Survey, told us that Indigenous doctors experience and/or witness racism, discrimination, harassment and bullying 21% more than non-indigenous doctors.
If these facts tell us one thing, they tell us of a system that is not working. A system that cannot go on in the same way (and I would question anyone who suggested that colonisation has not had an impact on Indigenous peoples in Australia).
This referendum provides us with an opportunity to respectfully recognise Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution. This recognition will lead to positive change, to centre the voices of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples in decision making, to stop wasting time and money and to grow wellbeing and kindness.
I’m voting YES to give Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people the opportunity to influence the healthcare system and improve health outcomes.
I’m voting YES so Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people will partner in decision-making processes that impact Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples wellbeing.
I’m voting YES so Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children can flourish.
I’m voting YES because I want to hold my head high, and proudly live in a country that recognises 65,000 years of Indigenous culture in the Constitution.
I’m voting YES because the status quo is not acceptable.
The misinformation and disinformation currently being shared will not weaken us, we will stand on the shoulders of 65,000 years of strength and resilience to seize this historic moment. We will do it because of our Elders, our families and for our future generations. We will do it with our Allies.
The establishment of a Voice to Parliament is not a radical proposition; it is an essential step towards a fairer, more inclusive, and more unified Australia.
I encourage every person considering how to vote on 14th October to hear these words and know they are based on facts. I hope you will stand with me as we aim to make history and to change the future.
- See AIDA’s media release on our public support of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament here.
- See AIDA’s policy position on the Voice to Parliament here.
- See support resources if you are struggling around the rhetoric on the Voice to Parliament here.
Donna Burns, CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is a registered nurse. She is a proud Wiradjuri descendant with many decades in the healthcare sector, as a Registered Nurse, with postgraduate qualifications in Emergency Nursing and Public Administration. She previously used this experience to lead her own consultancy work, specialising in organisational change and leadership development.
As a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Ms Burns is a non-executive Director on several Boards, including Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) and headspace National.
Ms Burns is currently focused on growing and advancing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce, while championing a culturally-safe health system.
 Data referenced in an Open Letter to the Australian Public, A Voice to Parliament Will Improve Health Outcomes.
 Data reference from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).