We're listening –
and we're voting Yes

By Jen Sharpe
Founder and Managing Director
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The founding principles of Think HQ, and our collective North Star as an organisation, is simple: “positive outcomes for people, places and planet.” We use an array of creative approaches to deliver on these aims for our clients, but every project has at its core one crucial element: listening. Because we believe you can only get something right if you do it with people and not to them – and you can only do this by listening to those people in the first place.

The importance of listening really struck home to me these last few weeks, featuring as it has more and more in the conversations and campaigns around why a Yes vote is so important in next month’s referendum on a Voice to Parliament for First Nations people. In an increasingly fractious environment, and with misinformation making good faith discussions ever harder for many Australians, this focus on listening really strikes a chord.

Why? Because it’s clear as day that it is the historic and ongoing failure to listen to First Nations people that has created the manifold problems that a Voice would start to address. For generations, Australia has had a system that has operated on assumptions rather than meaningful engagement with First Nations communities. Prescriptive where it should be consultative, it dictates what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need instead of listening to what they actually want, and how the community would like to work towards solutions.

The result of this refusal to listen shines a light on the inherent and ingrained injustices that First Nations people are faced with each and every day in the Australia of 2023: lower life expectancy, higher rates of disease and infant mortality, and fewer opportunities in education and training compared with non-Indigenous Australians.

This is not just a moral failing; it's a failure in practical terms. We know from our own work that Governments themselves are most effective when they listen to the needs of the communities they serve. Better decisions come from better information, and better information comes from those who are directly affected by the issues at hand. Listening leads to better results, and better results mean a more equitable society.

This is why Think HQ is standing proudly in favour of a Yes vote. For too long, First Nations people have not had a voice in the decisions affecting their lives. This needs to change. The Voice is something that First Nations people from across Australia are asking for – and every Australian has a part to play in answering that call. And then the listening can really begin.