Those of our readers who follow Westerly online, or attend our launches will know that we were open about our support for the Voice to Parliament. In the lead-up to the vote, we offered a public statement in support, responding to and drawing from the voices of the First Nations authors we have published, as well as our conversations and consultation with Casey Mulder, our current Editor for First Nations Writing.
Now, after the fact of the referendum’s defeat, the first thing to express is solidarity: with those who are grieving the result and process; with those who continue to assert their culture and their story; and with those who care for and maintain this multifaceted Country in which we live. Of course, we must offer acknowledgement too: Boorloo, from where we write this statement, and all of Australia, across its lands, waterways and skyways, is the unceded, sovereign Country of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It’s unclear, right now, how Australia as a nation will respond to the results of the Voice referendum. It is important that any response be measured and compassionate, and that First Nations people are pivotal in whatever decisions are made. When we offered our original statement, we hoped the opportunity the referendum presented would lead to precisely that; we hope this moment can still be an opportunity to embrace an ethics of deep listening, and for the truths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be heard.
While Westerly itself is not a political organ, it is attuned to the dual acts of speaking and listening, and we believe it is vital that the Magazine be a space from which those who need their voices to be heard can speak. We feel that the Magazine — and literary magazines more broadly — give us opportunities both to listen and to see the gaps in our listening. In the pages of our publication, we will continue to make space for those voices too often neglected or dismissed. Part of this work is to try to address some of the absences and aporias in our own long archive. Part of it is to celebrate the continuous, living, thriving diversity of First Nations authors.
One way in which we feel we might continue this work is to make writing by First Nations authors in our pages more widely accessible, offering them via our website, free to access and for all to read. Any participating writers will be remunerated for this dual publication, which will start from the issue of the Magazine you hold in your hands or on your screen. We encourage you to share these important works as widely as you feel comfortable, in the hope that more people gain the opportunity to listen deeply.
Daniel Juckes, Catherine Noske and Sarah Yeung, on behalf of the
Westerly team, October 25 2023
Find the first of these works on our Editor’s Desk.