Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

Jewish community says Yes to The Voice

Deborah Stone
Print this

Published: 7 July 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Indigenous leader MARCIA LANGTON launched Kol Halev, the Jewish campaign for The Voice, with a plea for an Australia where people of all backgrounds have an ‘honourable place’.

Leading Jewish organisations have come together to urge Jewish Australians to vote Yes in the referendum to be held later this year.

Kol Halev, meaning All the Heart, will campaign for constitutional recognition and a Voice to advise Parliament on issues affecting Indigenous people.

 The campaign was launched in Melbourne this week, with a keynote speech by Indigenous leader Professor Marcia Langton.

Langton said that recognising First Peoples in the constitution would create a framework for Australia that did not prioritise British heritage and recognised the diverse backgrounds of Australians.

“The Australian constitution is an act of the British Parliament in Westminster. it is entirely British. Now, so many years later, Australia is a very different place. There is your community and other communities like yours who came at various times in Australian history who are not descendants of the British,” she told the Jewish audience.

“Supporting the First Nations peoples of Australia is not only the right thing to do, it is the Jewish thing to do."

Rabbi Alon Meltzer

“We are asking simply for recognition, a constitutional right to have an advisory body to advise parliament as the mechanism of recognising us, whose ancestors came here 65,000 years ago. What will this achieve? This will enrich the constitution, so it is not simply a British document to unite the colonies but a constitution that more reflects the Australia we live in today.”

Langton said The Voice was a modest proposal which did not give Indigenous people different rights from other Australians, only the right to be consulted on matters concerning Indigenous people.

“It’s very simple and straightforward recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through establishing The Voice as an advisory body to make representations to parliament and executive government.

“I know that your community will understand it’s the least we could have asked for. There are no treaties. There’s no parliament, such as [Scandinavia's Indigenous people] the Sami have.  There’s no right as in the Canadian constitution to be consulted. We have nothing. We are not recognised in the Australian constitution. And I know that’s not the Australia that you want to live in. You want to live in an Australia where the First Peoples are recognised, where everybody has an honourable place in the country.”

Langton addressed the scaremongering by the No case, including suggestions that The Voice will allow Aboriginal people to dominate society or economy, destroy the mining industry, or weigh in on general economic issues such as interest rates.

“We are somewhere between three and four per cent of the population. We have barely survived the invasion and most of our population are living on the margins. Over a third of our population are the poorest of people in Australia. So how is it that we are a threat to Australia? How is it that by giving us recognition through an advisory body that we are a threat to democracy? It’s a nonsense.

“[The Voice] does not in any way take away your rights or anybody else’s rights. It doesn’t give us more rights than you, it doesn’t make our vote worth more than yours. It merely allows us to have a mechanism to give some advice through a representative body on matters that affect only us.

“All of us who have been involved … want merely to be able to stop governments from causing us harm by imposing policies that exclude us, marginalise us and make our situation worse.”

Addressing the Jewish community specifically, she said even the minority of Aborigines who live comfortable lives are affected by the legacy of dispossession.

“We are kind of living with survivor guilt, and I know so many of you know what that is about. We can’t enjoy life without bringing the rest of our people with us … all of the people who want to survive, who want to pass on their own culture, who want to be recognised by Australians, part of Australian society and economy on their own terms.

“I know how you feel about your community being accepted in Australia and I have been to Israel three times. I understand the problems. We have the opportunity here to go about this simple change in a democratic and peaceful manner. It will resolve so much.”

Kol Halev launch
Kol Halev launch

The Jewish effort

Kol Halev is co-ordinated by Stand Up, partnering with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Shalom, Bnai Brith and the National Council of Jewish Women.

The campaign plans to activate between 500 and 1000 volunteer members of the Jewish community in a door-knocking effort across Melbourne and Sydney, along with mail outs and advertising. It aims to facilitate conversations to improve understanding of The Voice and promote a Yes vote through conversations in Jewish organisations including synagogues, schools and aged care homes.  

The Chair of Stand Up, Dean Levitan, referred to the leadership of William Cooper, an Aboriginal man who was one of the first people internationally to protest Hitler’s treatment of Jews in the 1930s.

“We gratefully accept the invitation extended by the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart to join a movement of Australians walking towards a more inclusive future. It is past time that First Nations people have a voice on matters that affect them. This is a generational opportunity that we simply cannot afford to miss. It‘s time for our community to repay William Cooper.”

Rabbi Alon Meltzer, Director of Programs, Shalom, said Jews had a moral obligation to support Indigenous peoples. “Supporting the First Nations peoples of Australia is not only the right thing to do, it is the Jewish thing to do. We are a people who have had a long connection with land, with storytelling, and with the transmission of a rich and beautiful culture from one generation to the next. We are a people whom throughout history, have had people try to control our access to our land, and our self-determination of sharing our faith and culture. We are lucky to have regained control of our destiny.

“First Nations peoples have, for too long, been persecuted and denied the ability to have self-determination in doing the same thing – it is incumbent upon us to advocate for that wrong to finally be righted.”


Bringing the Yes campaign to shabbat tables (The Jewish Independent)

Memory, land, justice: why every Jew should vote for an Indigenous voice (The Jewish Independent)

About the author

Deborah Stone

Deborah Stone is Editor-in-Chief of TJI. She has more than 30 years experience as a journalist and editor, including as a reporter and feature writer on The Age and The Sunday Age, as Editor of the Australian Jewish News and as Editor of ArtsHub.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site