‘Yes’ campaign now in full swing

Tom Parry

MOMENTUM is gathering for a ‘Yes’ vote at the upcoming federal referendum, despite recent polls suggesting that support is waning.

Later this year, Australians will be asked to vote on supporting a Voice to Parliament, which will allow the government to establish an advisory body consisting of First Nations peoples.

If established, the body would make representations to the government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The ‘Yes’ campaign made its strongest statement yet on Sunday, July 2, with over 30 events – organised by lobby group Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition – taking place nationwide, including in all eight capital cities.

It is estimated that “thousands” of people turned out in support of the referendum.

Local resident and Arrernte/Luritja man, Uncle Gerry Laughton is among those backing “The Voice”; he was seen wearing a ‘Yes’ badge at Ramahyuck’s NAIDOC Week event on Monday.

“Any progression for Aboriginal people, as little as it is, I think it’s a good thing to get out of the status quo,” Mr Laughton said of his support.

His comments come after recent opinion polling showed a record-low level of support for a ‘Yes’ vote at the forthcoming referendum.

In a survey of 10,000 people released Monday, July 3, just 38 per cent of respondents said they would be voting ‘Yes’, compared with 55 per cent voting ‘No’ and seven per cent undecided.

The poll was commissioned by Australian Community Media and surveyed readers of their 14 regional newspapers across the country.

It follows a similar result in a nationwide Newspoll survey of 2300 people, which saw 43 per cent indicating their support, 47 per cent opposing the referendum and 10 per cent undecided.

Members of the federal Liberal and Nationals parties – including Gippsland MP Darren Chester – are publicly campaigning for a ‘No’ vote, arguing that the government must provide “more detail” on how a Voice to Parliament will operate.

This contrasts with the position of the Labor and Greens parties at a federal and state level, all endorsing a ‘Yes’ vote.

While some regional Victorian councils – including Greater Bendigo and Geelong – have expressed their support, Wellington Shire Council has “no plans” to endorse or oppose The Voice, according to Mayor Ian Bye.

“We like our community to make its own decisions,” Cr Bye said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation (RDAC) is yet to formulate a stance on The Voice; General Manager of Corporate Services, Andrew Dimarco said the RDAC board will comment on a position “when they’re ready”.

Asked whether he was confident the referendum would succeed, Mr Laughton said: “There’s no certainty in any sort of vote.”

“You listen to (the) media, and they’re telling you that the ‘No’ vote will topple the ‘Yes’ vote, but we’ll wait and see,” he added.

“I would hope that people consider the opportunities; there’s no loss to anybody, there’s a lot of gain for Aboriginal people having a reasonable voice.

“I certainly think it will support things like (a) Treaty that (the) state of Victoria is pushing at the moment.”

A date on the referendum is yet to be finalised, but is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of this year.