Skip to main content


CfC Trustee speaks out on Australian Referendum

The day following the referendum Indigenous Australians who supported the Voice issued a statement on the loss of the vote. This statement read: Now is not the time to dissect the reasons for this tragic outcome. This will be done in the weeks, years, and decades to come. Now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequence of this outcome. 

In his book Sand Talk Tyson Yunkaporta reflected that when learning from his Indigenous elders – ‘we first bring spirit (respect) then heart (connect), then head (reflect) and then hands (direct) as we join in the work of being custodian of our shared belonging to one another and to the lands upon which we live.

In the lead up to the vote the Charter for Compassion, Australia put together a book that sought to first bring spirit (respect) – by focusing on the Why of the Voice and asking why should we listen to indigenous voices? 

This collection of compelling statements was underpinned by the five creative Indigenous mindsets as articulated by Tyson in his book Sand Talk which comprise: Kinship Mind – Story Mind – Dreaming Mind Ancestor Mind and Pattern Mind. 

The Charter for Compassion’s National Ambassador Hugh Mackay, AO in his statement said We humans – all of us – exist in a shimmering, vibrating web of interconnectedness and interdependence.  To deny that is to deny the deepest truth about our humanity.

One of the very sad aspects of the referendum debate was that of not seeing our interdependence nor the suffering of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Indeed, some noted that modern day Aboriginals are not living with intergenerational trauma. But of course, that stance ignores the gap between Australia’s First Peoples and the rest of us in death rates, incarceration rates, school drop-out rates, domestic violence rates, crime rates, and suicide rates.

Which is why the evidence base of compassion is important providing as it does new insights into how we can improve our capacity to ‘see’ the suffering around us and respond to alleviate that suffering. Compassion science is examining what motivates humans to care for one another, and how this positive motivation can be extended to improve the whole of humankind. The importance of this research is that overall findings show that cultivating compassion and prosocial motivations are associated with improved well-being and the development of more beneficial social environments.

Prof Paul Gilbert, Director of the Compassionate Mind Foundation, UK says that the research basis of compassion is vital because, ‘…the motivation of compassion pushes us to understand how we have structured the world, and to ask, how can we structure it better, not because we may suffer, but because others are suffering’.

A no vote has left us in a liminal space where we are not sure where next to go – but clearly, humans do better when they are in a constructive relationship with themselves, others, and nature. Developing inner qualities of mind such as empathy and compassion is vital, because, as we are seeing with other complex policy issues, reconciliation will not be solved if we remain hyperpolarised. As commentator Jack Waterford AM noted the Voice has been silenced now, we must listen.


Written by Dr. Lynne Reeder
Charter for Compassion Board of Trustee and Research Fellow at Federation University Australia and National Leader of the Australian Charter for Compassion



←  Go back                                                  Next page