Everyday Australians flocked to community events across Australia in support of the Yes campaign for Indigenous constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament last Sunday.
Over 20,000 Australians showed their support for the Yes movement with events in Melbourne and Brisbane attracting an estimated 3,000 supporters, and the event at Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park almost 5,000 attendees.
Events were held in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Devonport, Geelong, Wollongong, Cairns, Townsville, the Sunshine Coast and Alice Springs. Over 30,000 t-shirts and 25,000 corflutes were handed out across 30 events nationwide as yes supporters mobilised to bring the conversation back into communities.
Alongside Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney at the Brisbane event, Yes 23 Campaign Director Dean Parkin thanked supporters for coming together on a Sunday to advocate for a Yes vote in the referendum later this year.
“People can expect to see a lot more of our campaign between now and referendum day, with plenty of opportunities for people to engage and learn about why supporting a Voice to Parliament will lead to more practical outcomes on the ground.”
Speaking at the Cairns event, past president and founder of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association Mark Wenitong said First Nations peoples needed a structural voice to enact change for better health outcomes.
Currently Aboriginal Public Health Medical Officer at Apunipima Cape York Health Council, where he is working on health reform across the Cape York Aboriginal communities, Dr Wenitong has been involved in both clinical and policy work throughout his career, including Medical Advisor for the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) in Canberra.
Closing the Gap was an example of initiative without Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander input was failing, he said.
“Despite good intentions, government after government has failed us and that gap is widening. We know that when we are part of the decision-making and implement the services and policies that’s when we get the best results. To do nothing is not an option and doing more of the same is also not an option.”
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID Taskforce was the first time First Nations peoples had direct input into decisions that affected their communities from healthcare to biosecurity, and had shown positive outcomes, he said.
“Despite being one of the populations thought to be hardest hit, we didn’t have one death from COVID in the first 18 months. If we have a Voice to Parliament we will have direct input into decisions about us and we will see a difference with startling outcomes.
“This is worthwhile, it will make a difference. We cannot let the Voice fail.”