Indigenous Australians have raised their doubts over the Voice to Parliament, saying they are distrustful of the government because of the historical treatment of First Nations people.
The group spoke to NITV’s current affairs show The Point from Cummeragunja, in the Yorta Yorta nation on the NSW and Victoria border, this week as part of the program’s referendum ‘road trip’.
Australians will be asked to vote Yes or No on October 14 on whether to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament,
‘I don’t agree with the Voice; I think there’s a hidden agenda because of so many things that have happened to our people.’ one elder told the program.
‘I’m part of the stolen generation, and I just don’t trust the government anymore,’ she added.
Between 1905 and 1967, as many as 100,000, by some reports, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families to be re-homed into white society under policies endorsed by the government.
One First Nations elder from Cummeragunja said she was part of the stolen generation and does not trust the government proposal for the Voice
Australians will be asked to vote Yes or No on the enshrining the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution on October 14
A spokesperson for the No campaign, former Alice Springs mayor turned federal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, has criticised the Voice as being divisive as it will establish a raced-based advisory body in the Constitution.
She also claimed the process from which the proposal stemmed, the First Nations Constitutional Convention, was undemocratic and elitist.
‘The Uluru Statement from the Heart was not the result of a constitutional convention open to all Indigenous Australians. The Uluru Dialogues divided Indigenous people for an exclusive, invite-only talk-fest for the few,’ she said.
Her views appeared to be shared by the people interviewed in Cummeragunja, a remote community with a history of grass roots activism.
‘I don’t understand it; I don’t know what it’s going to do for us,’ one woman said.
‘I just think that it should have been explained more in detail. What we get out of it and what that Voice will mean to us.’
A male elder said he was concerned the Voice would be a constant topic for divisive debate both in Indigenous communities and wider Australia that could not be removed from the Constitution.
‘It’s only going to make things worse, I say. That’s my opinion, everyone’s got their own opinion.’
While a fourth younger woman interviewed said it just isn’t on the radar of people she knows.
‘I really don’t know much about the referendum. No one here really talks about it,’ she said.
One First Nations woman from Cummeragunja said she does not understand how the Voice will work or deliver positive change for remote communities while another said people she knows just don’t even talk about it
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the Voice as coming from Indigenous Australians, not politicians, and something that the vast majority support.
‘Indigenous people overwhelmingly want this. All the surveys show that somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent of Indigenous Australians support this,’ Mr Albanese told Sydney radio station WSFM in June.
He has repeated this claim on multiple occasions.
The information he refers to is from two polls conducted earlier this year.
An Ipsos poll in January and a YouGov poll in March found support for the Voice among First Nations Australians was 80 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively.
Both polls were commissioned by the Uluru Dialogue Group, which supports the Voice proposal.
The Ipsos poll surveyed 300 First Nations people, with 80 per cent saying they would vote yes, 10 per cent no and 10 per cent undecided.
The YouGov poll sampled 738 Indigenous Australians, with 83 per cent saying they would vote yes, 14 per cent no and 4 per cent undecided.
Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has claimed the Voice proposal stemmed from the Uluru Statement of the Heart which elitist and not a grass roots Indigenous movement
Mr Albanese said in a speech earlier this year, that the Voice would be an opportunity to address the historical treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
‘(It will be) an extraordinary opportunity for every Australian to be counted and heard,’ he said.
‘After the tumult of colonisation, we have lived through a silence, a long tide of denial.’
Success will require a majority of Australian voters and a majority of states voting in favour.
If the referendum succeeds, the federal parliament will legislate the details of the voice’s composition, functions, powers and procedures.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the government was deliberately keeping the details of the voice secret until after the referendum.
‘It is unknown and divisive and permanent, and I believe very strongly that if you do not understand the detail because the prime minister is deliberately keeping it from you, then vote ‘no’,’ Mr Dutton said.
The Liberal leader’s home state of Queensland is widely expected to vote majority ‘no’, while ‘yes’ case support is strong in Mr Albanese’s state of NSW.
With Western Australia also tipped to reject the voice, South Australia and Tasmania will be key battlegrounds for the campaigns.
Volunteers for the Yes and No campaigns are mobilsing ahead of the referendum (pictured)
Prominent Indigenous lawyer and Yes campaigner Noel Pearson was optimistic despite the situation in Queensland and Western Australia.
‘We have everything in front of us, we have a world to gain,’ Mr Pearson told ABC radio on Thursday.
He said the growing base of volunteers would be instrumental to the ‘yes’ campaign.
‘We’re not going to win this on social media, we’re gonna win it at the train stations, in the malls, at the at the houses of people that we knock the doors on,’ he said.
Professor Megan Davis, an architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart which led to the referendum, also said ‘face-to-face yarns’ in communities will be the only path to success.
‘What we found in our work is that in areas where undecided people come in, they more often leave as ‘yes’ because they get the facts unencumbered by ideological agenda,’ she said.
Early voting for the referendum begins on October 2, but because of a public holiday observed in the ACT, SA, NSW and Qld, those jurisdictions will open pre-polling on October 3.