After the Referendum results came in, sensibly and fairly, it seems like two things happened across the many sides of politics, different communities, and pockets of society.

Firstly, that there was an appreciation that First Nations Australians deserve better.

Secondly, that the result of any referendum, or vote, or question, has people falling on both sides of the decision, or with different perspectives on the question. That ultimately means, that whatever the result, while we may ultimately get to a better set of possibilities, for an interim period, there will also be a feeling of significant period of damage, of loss, of divide.

A need for reflection and healing

That damage requires reflection, and healing, whether you’re outraged by the result, or dare I say it, happy that ‘your side’ won. Depending on where you sit (on yes or no, plus on a wide range of other demographics factors), you’ll likely have your way of experiencing emotion – of calling out rationality or irrationality, of feeling right or wrong, or being validated or hurt.

We will have learnt lots of things, and that conversation about the future is one for next week. We must speak about better support for First Nations people, and we should talk about the clear educational, health, and wealth divides, and the differences of opinion, that are now clearly central to how we think, how we vote, and how we navigate to our shared future version of Australia.

It also means we need to take action, and have conversations between different groups of people, so that the versions are explored – because while ignorance may be bliss for an individual, it is more than likely hurtful for the betterment of Australia

As always, wisdom on topics comes from listening, not only speaking.

On a rainy Sydney day, an Uber driver of self-proclaimed deep Australian, half Austrian Ukraine, half Malaysian Chinese heritage aptly put it like this.

‘I hear from a lot of people, on every side of everything. All I know is this. If I drew a 6 on the ground over there, one group would see a 6, and the other would see a 9, and there’d even be other people, who couldn’t see anything or chose not to’.

It was like he knew that we needed to hear his clarity. It came from a place of empathy to difference, and diverse views, even when the underlying facts (that it was drawn as a 6) were the same and indisputable.

It simply got us thinking that this “Week of Silence – requested by First Nations people – is imminently sensible. We must reflect. And perhaps mourn. And we must take a minute to unpack whether we see a 6 or a 9 or nothing at all. Why that’s our view, and despite how steadfast we may be, we also need to appreciate that other people might, in fact probably, see it steadfastly differently. And in this reflective silence, we dig a little deeper, now not wasting a drop of energy recounting our own views, but rather focusing our energy on exploring those other views, and how we might take a meaningful path forward.

I appreciate by writing this, I am not being silent

But, I cannot read another stupid article, that’s misread the room, and elevated voices so removed from reality that they appear to be done as an (unfunny) joke, or some other twisted sense of purpose.

And they break thoughtful silence, with hurtful words.

The first, is a clanger, quoting why ‘No’ was the fair and reasonable thing to do from the wife of a former mining CEO that crushed the sacred Juukan Gorge. Write all the corporate statements you want, but this just shows people close to it don’t believe what they’re writing. Why you’d give this person, given that backdrop, any airspace on any agenda, let alone in this moment, on this agenda, defies belief or logic.

The second, in a presumed emotive state, is likening Australia’s collective emotion to being like ‘a frightened little girl’. It doesn’t make sense as a reflection, nor does it move us forward. It’s not poetic, or thoughtful, or with a shroud of realism. Maybe it is bundling the authors emotion and projecting it to the nation. Maybe it has set the hopes and dreams and possibilities for little girls back a hundred years.

In all of this, there’s a clear point about the role of privilege and platform in media, vs. having something thoughtful to say, and one for corporates to navel gaze on.

How do we overcome, to rewire, the engrained need to speak, so we can truly listen and observe the sound of silence?

There’s plenty in that for the future, but my initial reflections are simple.

Reflections on overcoming the need to speak

  1. Speaking is rewarded, silence is neutralised (or perhaps punished). It’s not about ‘personality’ – the myth that extroverts speak and introverts don’t. Rather it is that throughout our lives, if you don’t speak up it’s assumed you’ve got nothing to say. But sometimes, maybe you just needed a different format to say it, or a little more time to be thoughtful on what to say.


  1. Silence and quiet – can be healing. Silence is space. And negative space is valuable space (it doesn’t have to be positive, or additive i.e., extra to what is here to be beautiful or meaningful). This is what the work of Michael Heizer in New York taught me – that negative (physical) space is inherently powerful.


  1. Sometimes silence can be as meaningful as words. It makes us sit with our thoughts, and also reflect on the thoughts, words, and actions of others. See their reason for ‘9’ where we see ‘6’.


  1. Silence is not a green flag for the wrong voices. This should go without saying, but a collective and meaningful call for silence is not a green flag to fill the space or air distorted, removed realities to the masses. Full stop.

Your mission this week – to pattern interrupt. To overcome the need to speak, for the sound of silence.

So at the risk of sounding like a yoga or fitness instructor of some kind, I want you to focus on using your ears more than you normally would, and using your mouth, a little less.

I have a feeling our whole take on the world, on our work, will be changed.

Next time, we can use this wisdom from reflection to build positive forward momentum.

Source: Yes Campaign, including Rachel Perkins and many others.