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Health industry joins discussion on Indigenous Voice referendum ahead of historic vote

Health Industry Hub | May 3, 2023 |

The Albanese Government has pledged to hold a referendum later this year to incorporate an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution, with the aim of ensuring recognition and representation for First Nations peoples.

In understanding the Voice to Parliament and its connection to healthcare and health equity, industry professionals across the medtech, pharma and biotech sectors joined the First Nations Health Equity Network for a panel discussion on 1st May. The event was was supported by Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Edwards Lifesciences, and hosted at Medtronic’s office in Macquarie Park.

Liz Carnabuci, Vice President and Managing Director, Medtronic Australia & New Zealand, expressed the company’s support for the referendum and highlighted the industry’s potential to address health inequalities by drawing on its deep expertise.

She said “Medtronic was pleased to host the First Nations’ Health Equity Network discussion to gain a deeper understanding of the Voice referendum, its significance, and what we should be considering with a focus on health equity as we approach the referendum.”

A panel discussion led by Jerome Laxale MP, Federal Member for Bennelong and featuring Dr Gordon Reid MP, Member for Robertson, Mike Stephens, Director of Medicines Policy and Programs at NACCHO, Scott Stirling, CEO of Red Dust and First Nations panellists addressed the myths and misconceptions surrounding the Voice to Parliament and its significance for the nation’s history.

“Of all the referendums, I couldn’t think of a more important one for us to get a ‘yes’ vote to locally,” said Mr Laxale.

There have been 44 referendums held since 1901 and only eight of these have been successful. Mr Laxale has spoken of his deep commitment to seeing First Nations voice embedded in Parliament during his first speech to Parliament.

Dr Reid, a proud Wiradjuri man, grew up on the Central Coast. He addressed several myths relevant to the Voice to Parliament and said “This is one of the most important moments in our nation’s history to recognise our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters – a culture that has stood the test of time, the oldest continuous living culture on the face of this earth for over 60,000 years.”

The referendum, which aims to embed the First Nations voice in Parliament, has divided Indigenous Australians. However, a recent state-by-state poll found that 51% of the nation supports the ‘Yes’ vote, while 34% oppose it, and 15% remain undecided. Nevertheless, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has publicly criticised the referendum, arguing that it will leave Australia embittered and it should be abandoned.

Dr Reid told Health Industry Hub “This is a huge moment in our country’s history. The establishment of a Voice and the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can only be beneficial.

“First Nation’s people are not a homogenous group. We have varied and diverse views. The Voice is about recognition and it’s about consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the issues that are going to affect them. It’s grassroots and it’s bottom up.”

“From a health perspective,” Mr Laxale said in speaking with Health Industry Hub “we know that there’s a huge gap between health outcomes for Indigenous communities. A Voice to Parliament will better involve Indigenous communities in regards to policies that impact them directly, and health is one of the areas that we need to do better.

“It is so important to dispel some of the myths that the no campaigners are campaigning on. A lot of what they’re saying just isn’t true. They’re saying ‘if you don’t know, vote no’. So, what can the health industry do? They can hold events just like today and invite MPs or other speakers to dispel the myths.”

Dr Reid emphasised that the Voice to Parliament is a community-led initiative that seeks to empower First Nations peoples and give them a rightful place in their own country. He called on the health industry to support the push for constitutional reform.

“The Voice is not about the Labor Party or politicians. It’s important that people know the facts and understand that they’re voting on a principle to change the Constitution,” he told Health Industry Hub.

As the Uluru Statement declares, “When we have power over our destiny, our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds, and their culture will be a gift to their country.”

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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