Thousands of supporters of the Voice to Parliament have taken to the streets across the country, with a crucial message for Aussies that “history is calling us” ahead of the October referendum.
Supporters of the Yes campaign turned out in record numbers on Sunday afternoon across major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
It marks one of the biggest campaign pushes for the Yes vote since the referendum date was announced.
Minister for Indigenous Australians told a roaring crowd in Melbourne’s CBD that “history is calling us” and that “each and every one of you can help answer the call from generations of Indigenous people.”
“For 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been speaking 363 languages, but no voice,” Ms Burney said to raucous applause.
“In 27 days, you have the power to do something about it. You have the power to use your voice to allow Indigenous Australians to have a bigger say in the future.”
Ms Burney said she was “speechless” and “almost crying” to witness the number of people in attendance.
“To look out over this crowd and see you. To know where your hearts are, to know where your spirit lives. And that you, like us, want to embrace this opportunity to move this country forward together,” the minister said.
— Mark Dreyfus (@MarkDreyfusKCMP) September 17, 2023
Peter Garrett: “Countries only get to make decisions like this once in a lifetime… I think all of us know that this cannot be wasted. It must be understood as one of the most important things that we, as a fair nation, can ever do.” pic.twitter.com/tSNQ1Bgsuz
— Henry Belot (@Henry_Belot) September 17, 2023
Campaigner and co-author of the Uluru Statement from the Heart Megan Davis said the number of people who turned out in support of the Voice “just blows our minds”.
“It wasn‘t just one city, it was many, many cities, including towns,” she told NCA Newswire.
“It’s really overwhelming and I think it’s a really historic moment.”
Ms Davis said that the show of support could be a sign that there is “probably a silent majority of people who support it.
“Rallies are just an extraordinary demonstration of the support that‘s out there, they are big numbers,” she said.
“I was in Melbourne and even though I was at the back of the crowd, it was just an extraordinary, huge number [of people].”
Australia’s Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who joined the mass rally in Melbourne, took aim at No campaigners while speaking to reporters.
Mr Dreyfus said anti-Voice advocates like Warren Mundine had “no solutions” for addressing Indigenous disadvantage.
“The no campaign talks about wanting to get practical improvement, the no campaign should be voting yes if they want practical improvement in the lives of Aboriginal people because that’s what this referendum is about,” he said.
Thousands of people descended into Redfern Park in Sydney to march as temperatures climbed above thirty-degrees, with organisers urging rally goers to stay in the shade and remain hydrated.
An estimated 5,000 people turned out to rally in Canberra with crowds parked outside the front lawn of Parliament House carrying large ‘Vote Yes’ signs.
Brisbane’s pro-Voice rally saw a about 20,000 people chanting ‘Yes’ holding signs which read ‘Stop the Trumps, Vote Yes’ and ‘Maintain the love.”
In response, a large Aboriginal flag was pictured draped across Victoria Bridge which read ‘Vote No.’
— 💧 Russell Darnley OAM email@example.com (@maximos62) September 17, 2023
Sunday’s mass rallies come after polls this week indicated a downfall for the October 14 referendum, with the national average support for Yes reportedly falling below 45 per cent.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke out this week about questions over the Yes campaigns success and said while referendums were “hard to win” said he had confidence that voters would turn out in favour.
“I’m confident that every Australian will take up the opportunity to vote Yes,” the PM said on Thursday.
Since 1901, only eight of 44 proposals for constitutional change have been approved.
The Australian Electoral Commission reported that a record number of Australians are enrolled to vote ahead of the date, with enrolments for First Nations people above 90 per cent for the first time in history.