By Charles Qin
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum is a significant initiative in Australia aimed at granting Indigenous Australians a constitutionally enshrined voice in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
Multicultural communities in Australia could make a big difference to The Voice Referendum and whether it succeeds or not when it is held later in 2023. Campaigns for a Yes and No vote are gaining momentum and a lot of information is circulating – but how much of that has been translated into the many languages spoken in Australia?
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament means compulsory voting and for the referendum to succeed, a majority of voters (more than 50%) in a majority of states (at least four out of six states) need to vote ‘Yes’.
Quality and timely translation is important for CALD communities
Whether we are talking about The Voice, elections or participation in Australian society, a lack of English capability or a preference to communicate in one’s own language should not be a barrier to participation. But unfortunately it is always harder to get important messages out and understood in the CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community. During the Covid pandemic, language was frequently in the headlines when it was clear that CALD communities were at greater risk because of a lack of translation, inaccurate translation or long delays in getting translated information circulated.
Many electorates have large ethnic populations and if you think that mainstream Australians are still claiming that they don’t understand much about The Voice, consider those who don’t speak English or prefer to read or listen to content in their own languages.
For example, in the Sydney seat of Fowler held by independent MP Dai Le, there are 130 languages spoken. Dai Le said “The Voice will need to have a very effective communication with CALD people to tell communities such as ours how this would impact their current situation.” (Financial Review)
Multicultural communities in Australia can play a vital role in ensuring the success of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum. As members of a diverse society, they understand the importance of representation and inclusivity in decision-making processes. They can empathise with the struggles faced by Indigenous Australians and appreciate the need for their voices to be heard and respected.
Apart from reaching out to CALD communities in mainstream languages, it is also essential to address the communication needs of remote Indigenous communities, where English might not be widely spoken or understood. These communities often rely on their native languages as their primary means of communication, preserving their cultural heritage and identity.
You can find almost a hundred languages translations and voice recordings here: https://ulurustatement.org/education/translations/ Please spread the word.
CHIN has been proud to provide a contribution to spreading correct information – in this case to Chinese speakers in Melbourne. I provided Mandarin interpreting services to an event at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne where a panel of speakers explained The Voice and took questions.
To further support the success of The Voice, multicultural communities can:
Advocate for Inclusivity: Multicultural community leaders and organisations can actively advocate for the inclusion of foreign language translations in referendum materials. They can collaborate with government agencies and Indigenous community representatives to ensure that translated information reaches CALD communities effectively.
Engage in Dialogue: Holding open discussions and forums within their communities about the significance of The Voice and the need for support can foster understanding and empathy. This can create a more informed and supportive atmosphere for the referendum proposal.
Cultural Exchange and Learning: Organising events that promote cultural exchange and understanding between Indigenous and CALD communities can strengthen bonds and create a united front for the referendum’s success.
Mobilise Support: Encouraging members of CALD communities to actively participate in the referendum process, whether through voting or supporting advocacy efforts, can increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Multicultural communities in Australia have a significant role to play in ensuring the success of The Voice. By advocating for inclusivity, engaging in dialogue, promoting cultural exchange, and mobilising support, these communities can contribute to a more united and equitable future for all Australians. The referendum presents an opportunity to build bridges and foster a sense of national unity that celebrates the richness of Australia’s cultural diversity while acknowledging the custodianship of the land by its First Nations people.
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(Images: Zhao Rongjun)