Why Australians Are Voting Yes or No to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Image of papers with the words yes and no on them to illustrate an article about the indigenous voice to parliament vote

Casting a ballot is a funny thing. Much like using a paper straw or, I dunno, lowering our national carbon emissions, it feels futile in the face of overwhelming opposing interests. And yet, of course, if everyone refused to act on that basis, nothing would ever change.

That argument, however, doesn’t quite hold up in this country, where voting is not simply a democratic right, but one that you can face financial sanctions for not invoking. Few things give as much insight into the collective psyche of the ruling class as the use of a stick to threaten people into doing the right thing.

So, we have to vote and, thankfully, are gifted with a democracy that not only enables but actively encourages fence-sitting through one of the world’s most complex ballot-counting systems. This ensures no vote is wasted and we can vote for whoever is the most tolerable, even when they don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning. It’s our default mode for voting and it implies a nuanced understanding

This time around, however, there will be no fence-sitting — the upcoming referendum will smash all nuance into a binary choice: Yes or No.

Providing the information that ought to get people off their comfortable fence, however, has proven ineffective. You can lead a horse to water and all that, but the most searched questions around the Voice to Parliament are still, with just weeks to go, the absolute basics: what it is, how it works, and how to vote for it.

Around 30% of the country is still relatively uncommitted and yet, because of that big stick, we are all going to have to make a choice. That choice will make a significant statement about the kind of country we are and the kind of country we want to be.

So, to help you off that fence and into the land of the committed, we’ve scoured the internet to get an idea of the reasons behind why people are voting the way that they are.

Here are some of the best reasons we’ve seen for committing to a choice in the upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum.

Why Vote Yes

“We have the chance to be part of a moment that brings people together to work hard for something that we can all believe in. And right now, each of us can be part of something that really matters, to stand together and to show our support for Australians who need it the most, to recognise Indigenous peoples in our constitution for the very first time, to give our kids the very best start in life and equal start in life, and to open our hearts and change our future.”  — Cathy Freeman, Olympian


Listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gets better outcomes. #voicetoparliament #referendum2023 #auspol #yes

♬ original sound – Braden Hill

“The government doesn’t write laws for Lebanese Australians or Chinese Australians or African Australians, but they do write legislation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All we want is an opportunity to say to the government, ‘You know that law you’re writing? It’s pretty shit’.” — Leon Filewood, Waiben/Thursday Island Lawyer.

“I make the simple argument that what we’re doing now is simply not working. And I’ve seen that in every corner of Western Australia. We will only get once chance, I think, to recognise Aboriginal people in our Constitution.” — Mia Davies, WA Nationals Member


This referendum, don’t take the risk. #michaelshafar #auspol #auspolitics #australia #aussietok #voicetoparliament #voteyes #voteyesaustralia #indigenous #aboriginal #aboriginaltiktok #aboriginalaustralia #skynews #racism #racist #referendum #referendum2023

♬ original sound – Michael Shafar

“At least four federal Indigenous consultative bodies have been established and then dismantled on political whims. With each election, the advances we make are swept away and new and far too often inappropriate policies replace them, policies in which we have had little or no say.” — Marcia Langton, Professor of Indigenous Studies

“I see it simply. Mob have had a shit deal since white fellas turned up, and the Voice is not only the least we can do to help make it right… I really do reckon it’ll make us better as a country moving forward. We’re home to the world’s oldest surviving culture.. why wouldn’t we embrace that?” — Sean Doherty, Journalist and Author.

“It is time now non-Indigenous Australia for you to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You don’t know everything; you don’t have all the expertise. But on this occasion the reality is you will have the majority say in what direction this referendum goes. This won’t impact your lives in any way, however there are significant implications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A vote for no will tell us unequivocally that you are comfortable to continue witnessing the despair of our people. A vote for yes says you want to be a part of change.” — Tyson Carmody, Founder of Aboriginal Men’s Organisation, Kings Narrative.


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A post shared by The Project (@theprojecttv)

“Australia is a wonderful country and we’ve performed so well on every conceivable social and economic measure. But there is a gap between the performance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and it’s a gap that goes decades and it hasn’t moved. We need the voice to help close the gap.” — Julian Leeser, Liberal Party Member for Berowra.

“Indigenous people would rather choose our own representatives. And surely that should be easy enough to understand in a democracy.” — Thomas Mayo, Kaurareg Aboriginal and Kalkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander Maritime Union of Australia Official.

Why Vote No

“Many blackfellas I have spoken to are still concerned that the Voice may not lead to change or a challenging of the status quo. There are concerns about the racist rhetoric inevitably drummed up in a referendum year, and concerns about what a Voice design could look like. There are legitimate concerns about when and how we can ask questions and whether a Voice will be truly representative.” — Amy McQuire, Indigenous Author and Journalist.

“The Voice is not constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations. It will not — and cannot — represent First Nations and will more than likely be used as a tool to undermine them.” — Nyunggai Warren Mundine, Businessman and Political Strategist.

“This country likes to talk about change, and there needs to be one. Sovereignty is about self-determination, on our own terms, not about having bodies that overlook and control everyone’s affairs… Until Australia is taking action, accountability and responsibility for the genocide, let’s talk restitution and reparatory justice.” — Gwenda Stanley,  Aboriginal Tent Embassy Spokesperson.

“The Voice is the window dressing for constitutional recognition… It is a 20-year-old Howard-era policy created with the explicit purpose of undermining sovereignty, self-determination, and land rights for First People. The voice is an easy way to fake progress without actually having to change a thing. It is a destructive distraction absolving the government of its continued crimes. We have done what everyone should do and actually analysed the proposed Voice for the conservative proposal of a powerless advisory body that it is. We are merely pointing out that there is no progress, that there is false hope, and that we deserve better.” — Lidia Thorpe, Independent Senator for Victoria.

“The [question] I get the most often is, ‘Why are you, an Aboriginal woman, opposing the Voice?’ The answer is simple, it’s the Voice of division. I don’t want our country to be divided along the lines of race.” — Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Senator for the Northern Territory.


Mob on the ground at Cummeragunja are reluctant to support the Voice to Parliament #ThePoint #VoiceToParliament #NITV

♬ original sound – NITV

“Hindsight has proved that the 1967 referendum constitutionally enabled the federal government to count us as humans but treat us like animals. Any objective accounting would conclude the Voice won’t change this. We will still be treated like animals and the government will continue to act as zookeepers. We will remain caged and controlled, starved of our rights to be free on our own lands and the authors of our destinies. After all, what good is having a Voice when the people you’re speaking to either don’t know how to listen, don’t care or simply believe they know better?” — Ben Abbantangelo, Gunaikurnai and Wotjobaluk Writer.

“The Voice is an attempt by the Australian government to maintain its control over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, our territories and our future, and to silence any voices in opposition to the never-ending colonial violence wrought upon us. It is a form of co-option that seeks to undermine our resistance and activism by offering us token representation in the illegitimate colonial government, to be hand-picked by that illegitimate colonial government.” — Black People’s Union

“If you have really been following Indigenous rights and the policies affecting my people, you will see that Yes is not a step forward in the right direction. It is another step toward the assimilation of our culture and the demeaning of our sovereignty and our Law. It is also important to see that voting No won’t mean a ‘missed opportunity’ because the Voice offers nothing meaningful in the first place.” — Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM

Related: The 30-Year Success Story of Norway’s Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Related: Breaking Down the Official Yes and No Campaigns for the Voice to Parliament

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