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A message from William Tilmouth, Chair of Children’s Ground & National Elder of the Year 2023

Dear Friends and supporters,  

The decision by the Australian people to vote NO in this referendum has created another deep wound for our people, yet another scar we will carry into future generations.

For me, it feels like I have been told to get back into my box; as if our voices, our history and our aspirations mean nothing. While I know this is a political failing, a function of fear-mongering and misinformation for political gain, at a human level it feels as if we have been again rejected by the Australian people.

The majority of First Nations people voted for change. The majority of non-First Nations people did not. We just want to be recognized, respected and listened to, nothing more and nothing less.

Instead, our people are hurting. I am tired, like many of my people who have spent their lives fighting for justice. For some of us, we know we will now not see political change in our lifetime.  

But while a part of me wants to give up, the side that was born into this world fighting for survival continues. I have an obligation to my Elders and ancestors to hold strong.

The importance of our voice and the power of our voice will not be diminished by this outcome.

I do not believe that this is a failure of the Australian people. My experience over my many years has been the goodwill of non-Aboriginal people. No one of sound mind and heart would willingly relegate First Nations people to a status quo that is killing us. 

The referendum highlights a chasm we all must bridge. We must bridge ignorance, racism and misunderstanding. We must understand our collective history so that we can share a collective future.

One of the things that gives me strength and belief is all of you who support Children’s Ground. Thank you for recognising the enormous possibility and change that is generated when First Nations’ voices are listened to - when First Nations people design and deliver community solutions that honour our culture, language, knowledge systems and history.

We started Children’s Ground because the system and status quo had failed us completely. Prescribed solutions just don’t work. What does work are solutions that are driven by the people – those who don’t have a voice in the political system and suffer the greatest disadvantages but whose voices are the most important.

As Aboriginal people we are leading a new system and it is working. And irrespective of the outcome of last weekend’s referendum, or the politics of the day in the future, Children’s Ground will continue as our voice and our solution, enabled by your support.

What can you do?

Right now we need action, and I am calling on you to help. I am asking you to mobilise your networks, all the people who voted yes, those who want to see change – to turn that support towards the work of Children’s Ground. 

The antidote to despair is action.

Incredibly, one of our supporters has pledged up to $500K to Children’s Ground, to be matched by 20th November. If you are able to chip in anything towards this, I would be grateful. Please actively share our work and this opportunity with 20 people you know.

There are solutions and there is hope but it does require us to walk together. The referendum was one option that is now closed to us. At Children’s Ground we are as committed as ever to systems change and showcasing what is possible. If you can offer support now, it will make an enormous difference. 


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