The date is yet to be set for the upcoming Australian constitutional referendum on the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, but the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns are beginning to hit their stride.
Following this week’s Wagga visit from Liberal Party MP Julian Leeser – a supporter of the Voice despite his party’s official position – local Yes23 group Riverina for Yes is preparing to host the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney.
“The Minister is coming to Wagga on Tuesday and is going to be visiting in the local community and she will also attend a free community barbecue,” said local campaign ‘captain’ Keryn Foley.
“It’ll be a friendly community event for people to get an opportunity to just come out in support and to look at getting involved if they are interested in supporting the Yes campaign.”
Polls have suggested that early support for the Voice has waned in recent months as first the Nationals, and then the Liberals came out against the proposed referendum and what they have described as a “Canberra Voice”.
But Ms Foley suggests that polling, particularly in regional areas, is often unreliable.
“I think that sometimes polls are very skewed and I don’t really put too much stock in them,” Ms Foley said, responding to a recent readers survey by ACM (The Daily Advertiser) that suggested strong opposition to the Voice in the Riverina.
“The broad indicators that we have, show that there’s quite significant support in the community, particularly among younger people under 30, and they are probably not reading the local paper or responding to polls like that.
“I think what is important is for people to inform themselves from reputable sources because it alarms me that there is so much misinformation in the community.”
The formal Yes and No cases are now available on the Australian Electoral Commission’s website after each side submitted their official arguments.
They were approved and uploaded without any formatting or editing by the AEC and both statements can be found in full here.
At the forefront of the No campaign is Northern Territory Senator and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Anglo-Celtic and Walpiri woman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
Both Ms Price and Ms Burney have been travelling across the country in recent weeks, making their opposing cases to voters, and on Tuesday, the senator challenged the Minister to a public debate.
“No, this is about Australians, not politicians,” declared Ms Burney as she rejected the invitation.
“We want an honest and open conversation with Australia about a path to a better future. They want typical political conflict and obstruction.”
Open conversation is a strategy that Ms Foley says Riverina for Yes will echo as they seek to provide information and encourage discussion rather than arguments and debates.
She said that the Minister’s Wagga visit would focus on sharing a positive message with Dr Joe McGirr and local Wiradjuri elders also joining the community gathering to support the Yes campaign.
“Our code of conduct that all the volunteers sign is about being positive and respectful and not getting involved in the negative,” she said.
The Yes23 volunteer code urges members to “champion positivity” and to “contest ideas, not people”.
“Whatever the result of this referendum we are one community and we must live in harmony together,” the code states.
“Success will come from our ability to bring people together from all communities and foster a kinder, more positive, respectful, and equitable Australia.”
The free community barbecue event with Linda Burney will be held at midday on Tuesday, 25 July in the council precinct.
While No campaigners are yet to announce any official events in Wagga, Warren Mundine will argue the No case in Wodonga at The Cube next Sunday, 30 July.