Meaningful Conversations About the Voice

Maureen Sexton RSM leads a Kitchen Table Conversation with her neighbours in Sydney’s inner-west.


Inviting people to share their voices is the call behind the Kitchen Table Conversations that are occurring across Australia in the lead up to the Voice referendum.


Kitchen Table Conversations draws on a long tradition of conversations around the kitchen table which were once the mainstay of households. They are a way of engaging people in respectful and honest dialogue around a specific issue, in this case constitutional recognition and a Voice for First Nations people. The aim is to build knowledge, insights and create lasting change for everyone involved.


In the past few months many sisters and Institute staff have been involved either in hosting or participating in a Kitchen Table Conversation.


Elizabeth Moloney RSM, who recently attended an information session with Daphne McKeough RSM in leading Kitchen Table Conversations run by the Victorian Women’s Trust, believes the Kitchen Table Conversations are a helpful way of developing her own conviction and confidence in voting YES.


“In my experience the Kitchen Table Conversations have built my understanding as why I am going to vote YES and has enabled me to be able to articulate that.


“They are not just a head trip, instead they are a heart journey. In a very gentle and respectful way they take you to a deeper level of our being rather than just imparting knowledge”.


Maureen Sexton RSM is another sister who has recently hosted kitchen table conversations.


“Despite enormous goodwill, so many of us have a very limited knowledge of the history and issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


“It is therefore important to educate ourselves as to the context that has brought us to this point of having a referendum and the Kitchen Table Conversations are a great way to do this”.


Maureen said hosting a Kitchen Table Conversations has taken her outside of her comfort zone through her decision not just to invite people whom she knows to attend a conversation, but instead she has reached out to others.


“I invited some of my neighbours to have a Kitchen Table Conversation and I was amazed at how affirming each person that I approached was. In fact they said ‘Good on you Maureen!’.


“I started with my immediate neighbour and I said to her, ‘Can I sound something out with you?’.


“And straight away she said that they want to know more and then they kindly said ‘You can hold it here’”.


Maureen then knocked on another couple of doors until she got a group together of six people, including someone with whom she had never previously spoken.


“Everyone I approached said yes and they also offered to bring some food.


“We had the Kitchen Table Conversation last Saturday and we will be having the second part in a few weeks’ time”.


Staff at the Institute Centre in Stanmore participate in the Kitchen Table Conversation around the Voice


This week, Maureen and Elizabeth extended an invitation to the staff at the Institute Centre in Stanmore to have a Kitchen Table Conversation.


One of the participants, Communications Manager John Rochester said that while not knowing what to expect from the conversation he was pleasantly surprised at the simple yet effective way it imparts knowledge.


“When I was at school we learned a lot about northern hemisphere history, yet almost nothing about the world’s oldest continuing surviving culture who have been here for 50-60,000 years.


“The Kitchen Table Conversations opened up this history and the more recent journey Australia’s First Nations’ people have been on since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788”.


Both Sister Maureen and Elizabeth believe that the Kitchen Table Conversations are already having a  positive impact.


“A lot more is happening on the ground, then perhaps is showing up in published opinion polls.


“In the training we undertook to prepare us for running these conversations, they talked about the strength of having the conversation and if you get ten people at your table they will go and talk to their network and it has a ‘ripple effect’.”



For More Information

If you are interested in hosting your own Kitchen Table Conversation, the following websites contain helpful information –

You may also wish to check with your local council as to whether there are any conversations being hosted in your area.


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