Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is pushing Australians to vote ‘yes’ after he announced the First Nations Voice to Parliament referendum will be held on October 14.
For the first time in history, Indigenous Australians will be given the opportunity to have their own federal advisory body in Parliament.
The recent announcement has sparked a divisive debate, especially in the Aboriginal community, with some strong anti-Voice sentiment.
Curtin University’s Centre of Aboriginal Studies associate lecturer, Anthony Kickett, a Whadjuk Noongar person, says he’s felt the divide in the Indigenous community since the referendum date was announced.
“As a collective, we identify with each other and our past trauma across the nation but we also have as individuals a right to have our own position so therefore even within our own communities people are challenging each other, not in a bitter way, but in a continuation of the trauma,” he says.
Mr Kickett says most of the people who vote no, probably just don’t know.
“I was told by a wonderful non-Aboriginal man who sort of said, the usual mantra is ‘If you don’t know vote no’, but I’m voting yes because if you’re in doubt, find out,” he says.
Member of the UN permanent forum for Indigenous issues Hannah McGlade, who is part of the Kurin Minang people, says the majority of Indigenous people will be voting yes.
“Most Aboriginal people, polls indicate 80% or higher support the voice because we know this is going to be a systemic reform to the constitution that will allow our voices to be heard and to improve the situation in terms of aboriginal people’s day-to-day lives,” she says.
She says there are many reasons why some Indigenous people will be voting against the referendum, but it needs to change.
“There’s probably a level of suspicion involving the government because very often governments have acted against the interest of Aboriginal people and we have a long history of government doing that,” she says.
“Some people want something far greater, they want a recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty and they feel this is a risk to that, but it’s not minimalist, this is very significant, there’s no constitution we are aware of in the world that recognises Indigenous people’s right to a representative body in this way.”
Dr McGlade says voting yes is important for progress.
“We want to see a closing of the gap for Aboriginal disadvantage, we want to do better for our people and also have a chance at healthier happier lives,” she says.
“Without our voices, without our knowledge, without our advice, the Australian government policies are going to continually fail.”