On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his optimism regarding the upcoming referendum to recognize the nation’s indigenous people in its constitution. However, previous surveys have shown a divided public opinion, with a significant portion of the population opposing it.
Australia’s constitution, dating back to 1901, notably overlooks Indigenous Australians, who constitute around 3.8 percent of the nation’s population. This marginalized community continues to face discrimination, short life expectancy, lower education outcomes, and high incarceration rates, as reported by Reuters.
The proposed referendum, titled “Voice to Parliament,” aims to constitutionally enshrine the rights of Australian Indigenous people and establish an advisory body to provide their input on policies affecting them.
According to Reuters, PM Albanese’s center-left Labor government supports the referendum, while the opposition Liberal-National conservatives are advocating for a “No” vote on 14 October. Recent polling indicates that only 38 percent of the nation supports the referendum.
Despite this, Albanese remains hopeful, stating in an interview with ABC, “I’m optimistic.” He cited positive responses from various cities, including Shepperton, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, and Adelaide, during his recent travels.
However, while many Indigenous people favor the proposed change, some argue that it could distract from achieving practical and meaningful outcomes, and they question whether it will fully address their issues.
The political opposition views the measure as divisive, ineffective, and potentially obstructive to government decision-making, as reported by AFP.
It was reported that Noel Pearson, an Indigenous lawyer and land rights activist, one of the architects of the “Voice” proposal, said that Australians now face a “moral choice”.
He said that “One choice will bring us pride and hope and belief in one another and the other will, I think, turn us backwards and bring shame to the country,” he told Australian broadcaster ABC.
He further stated, “Yes’ is a moral choice and ‘no’ would be a travesty for the country, and we will possibly never live it down.”
(with inputs from agencies)