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Voice Referendum Campaign Goes Local

By Gillian King

I am a private person. I don’t have a cat or a dog, and dog parks are a foreign territory to me. Yet, last week, I put on my YES t-shirt, picked up my corflutes and flyers, and headed off to a popular local dog park to talk to strangers about the Voice Referendum.

There were six of us in t-shirts, we set up our signs at one end of the oval and started to offer our flyers. Over an hour, we talked to about 60 people while their dogs chased balls and played rambunctiously.

“Bend your knees”, said a dog owner when a mass of wrestling dogs writhed around me.

People and dogs were very friendly. Most people intended to vote YES, many were thinking about it, and a few were definite ‘NOs’.

From across the oval, I looked back at our little set-up – a handful of people and some corflutes. I saw that we were the face of the YES campaign in our community. Some of the people we met were quite relieved to see us there because they were worried that the YES campaign was lagging. They wanted someone to do something about it.

I, too, want a strong YES campaign because this referendum is really important to me. I live on a street that has been a pathway to the river for thousands of years. How many millions of sunsets have Aboriginal people seen from my home area over tens of thousands of years?

We all know that policies and programs work better when end users are consulted, yet Indigenous people are rarely consulted about the policies and programs that apply to them. The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls this the torment of our powerlessness.

I want to see an Indigenous Consultative Body that can advise on policies and programs. I prefer for it to be in the Constitution so that, if a future government disbands the Consultative Body of the day, then they will be obliged to replace it with something.

This is the best chance we have of Closing the Gap where only 4 out of the 19 targets are on track.

So, I have stepped up to be one of the faces of the YES campaign in my local community. A visible presence is a great encouragement to YES voters and gets people talking.

We’ll be brave and talk to strangers to encourage them to vote YES.

If things get a bit gnarly, I’ll remember the advice from the dog park, “bend your knees”, and I’ll lean into it.

Gillian King, a former social researcher, was surprised to find that her deep concern for the unfolding damage of Climate Change and worsening social inequality have turned her into a campaigner for social justice and climate. She lives in Roseville with her husband and enjoys time with two daughters and four grandchildren.



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  1. New England Cocky

    ”The world is run by those who turn up” – Tony Windsor, former INDEPENDENT MP for New England and before that Tamworth NSW.

  2. Clakka

    After being born and bred into an outer urban bush environ, and travelled Oz and the world, I now live in a regional backwater town (once shown on ‘Back Roads’). There is a fine arts community, and a few bastions of community kindness, but they don’t come out often.

    Whilst I’m uncertain of the ratios, the most conspicuous out and aboutters are the regulars at supermarket bottle shop and otherwise loud inhabitants of roaring diesel utes and the front bars. They are mostly embittered and afraid of almost anything that requires them to think. Too afraid to even pick up their butts, empty tinnies and dog turds from the carparks and nature strips. After all, they’ve got their reputations to maintain. It makes me wonder from just where they obtained their demeanour and self-righteous disposition.

    Seeking to engage them in conversation that doesn’t involve an automatic response of hostility, expletives and derision is pointless and risky.

    It would be great to now the outcome of the referendum vote by local government area, even moreso by ward.

    Good on you and your placarded mates, Gillian. I can only hope that some of the quieter long-time locals do something similar in my town, I’d go and join them.

  3. Stephengb


    Thank you.
    After 43 years in Australia, I have come to the conclusion that those loud ute driving folk, are indeed, the original “scared wierd little guys”!

  4. Canguro

    Stephengb, perhaps you’ve seen this classic piece of Australiana before?

  5. GL

    Is it me or is Lidia Thorpe becoming more unhinged?

  6. Michael Taylor

    Clakka @ 4:40pm … great read.

    GL, no, it’s not you. Definitely not.

  7. wam

    What were the reasons for those voting no, Gillian?
    feb 75 darwin was a weird town those teachers who returned were split between darwin and casuarina my darling is a gun and went to darwin I was not.
    Every friday I organised a film party in the casuarina staffroom, a few darwin high came, and we invariably got pissed and slept over.
    Wake in fright was the first film and the city teachers universally slagged my choice but, whilst you couldn’t enjoy it, I thought it a pertinent well acted film with parallels for our situation and believable for bush teachers.

  8. wam

    Anyone silly enough to read kennett??
    In our paper,
    Kennett began by admitting his male drivers, taxi and uber, are unaware of his past or, presumably, they would not be so keen to agree with his assessment of an Aboriginal Voice.
    Well, Jeff, we are aware of you and your input to Hawthorn racist debacle.
    Consequently we can recognise your decision to deny Aboriginal people of a say in laws that only affect them.
    His clever, disingenuous drivel exposes his sad adherence to our special racism from the history of the noble savage: recognise them from afar but don’t give them anything.
    Fortunately only 40% of Australians have such hang ups and you may frighten another 5% of victorians leaving over 50% ‘YES’.
    The voice is for Aboriginal people to have a say on laws that affect Aboriginal people so bite your bum, kennett.

  9. Terence Mills

    Peter Dutton seems to have a spring in his step this morning (Friday) as he proceeds on his cynical quest to sink the Voice to parliament and the referendum. He says that he is happy to recognise Aboriginal people as the first Australians in the Constitution but he wants Albanese to abandon the Voice.

    Linda Burney was peppered with coalition prepared questions during Question Time yesterday and struggled to explain which matters the Voice could advise parliament (and the Executive) on. She responded by saying that the Voice could advise on all matters and legislation affecting first nations people but this tended to paint her into a corner as it was pointed out that all matters handled by the parliament inevitably impact or affect the lives of all Australians and as those of Aboriginal heritage are obviously Australians then they could conceivably seek to advise government and the Executive on all matters before our legislature : she then countered by saying that the Voice could only advise on matters ‘directly affecting’ first nations people but this opened up yet another can of worms on definition and vagueness which was never clarified.

    Surely Albanese could have anticipated that, by not putting out detail on the scope and objectives of the Voice in advance, this type of questioning and probing would inevitably come about.

    I’ve been close to this issue from the start and I am positively in favour of a successful referendum but I am very concerned that those on the No side are gathering momentum spreading doubt and misinformation and if this referendum fails, Albanese will have to carry much of the blame.

    Gillian, keep us posted on your quest to spread the word as it will be at the grass roots that this issue will succeed or fail.

  10. Chennel

    All roads lead to a Treaty. If the proponents of the Voice came out and said that’s actually what they want they’d be ahead.
    I believe many Aussies want a Treaty, at least I do. The No camp is upfront and has already made this point about a Treaty.

    Who can’t see that is where both camps are leading?

    Whichever way the referendum goes, a Treaty will soon follow. I suspect this is way the Yes vote is in decline, more and more people are seeing the endgame. Why the govt didn’t poll a referendum on a Treaty and shelve the Constitutional nonsense is beyond me.

    Maybe Albo was set up to fail?

    Dumping a Treaty on Aussies without being crystal clear about the end result of voting yes, ie a Treaty, is bound to end in tears for Labor.
    If the Yes vote losses, does anyone think the No camp is going to drop its valid calls for a Treaty?

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