Australia's indigenous voice referendum heats up as yes campaigner calls out 'crisis', no voter says people are too uneducated

A 'yes' campaigner in Australia's Indigenous voice referendum says the nation is in "crisis" with Indigenous people dying earlier, being imprisoned more and having higher rates of suicide. 

Meanwhile, a 'no' campaigner believes the Australian government has sent its people to the polls "to vote on something that quite frankly, they don't know anything about".  

Australia is hours away from going to the polls to vote on whether its citizens want a change to the constitution and recognise the rights of Indigenous people.    

If Australian's vote in favor of the referendum, it would embed what is known as the 'Voice to Parliament' in the nation's constitution and recognise Indigenous people's special place in Australian history.  

It'll also create an advisory board made up of First Nations people to advise the government on policies, though Parliament don't have to implement what's being advised,   

As the clock counts down before the Aussies take to the polls on Saturday, AM explored both sides of the referendum.  


Thomas Mayo is one who is leading the 'yes' campaign and is passionate about it following years of advocacy for Indigenous rights.  

"I know that nothing we had tried in the past has made enough progress in closing the gaps that we have in Australia."  

Mayo told AM indigenous Australians have a life expectancy gap of between 10 and 20 years between non-indigenous people.  

He added the suicide rates among Indigenous Australians are "twice the amount" of non-indigenous, and their children are "more likely to go to prison than to go to university".  

"This is a crisis in Australia that we believe a voice and recognition would make a big difference in."  

Mayo believes the 'Voice to Parliament' is a "very practical reform" and is something that will make meaningful change.  

"A voice is simply an advisory committee as you mentioned, it's the ability for Indigenous peoples in this country to choose representation, representation that's accountable back to their communities."  

Mayo said if the voice advises something to Parliament the government doesn't have to implement it, he said if that occurs the voice can continue to advocate for whatever that may be.  

"We don't have a voice right now on a national basis, there is no structure from which Indigenous people can make representation," he said.  

"Every time we have established one in the past, and we have may times before, where it's setup by one government, the next government has always come along and taken it away."  

"That's why we are appealing to the Australian people to vote yes, because we want to make it a new standard in this country and the way we do that is in the constitution."  


Murrawarri Peoples Council Chair Fred Hooper is voting 'no' and is urging other Indigenous Australians to do the same.  

Hooper doesn't believe the voice is about truth telling and treaty making, he believes it's a "government trying to fix the inaccuracies that they've done in the past".  

Hooper told AM he and others have a different reason for why they're voting 'no'. He agrees with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for reform to help realise Indigenous rights, through the establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission.  

But he doesn't agree with the process that's taken place surrounding the referendum.   

"We believe the people in Australia should know the history before they are sent to the polls by government to vote on something that quite frankly, they don't know anything about."  

Hooper told AM said currently there are several advisory bodies to federal government, advising ministers, but he says "they're not listening".  

"The only way we can listen, or they can listen is through an agreement-making process with the Nations, such as a treaty, same as what they did in Aotearoa."  

Hooper said a settlement process similar to the one here with $170 million Waikato-Tainui settlement.  

"We need an apology from the King, same as what happened in Aotearoa, we need an apology from King Charles."  

AM also reached out to Indigenous Australian Senator Jacinta Price, who claims the referendum has divided communities and is urging people to vote 'no', she declined to speak to AM.   

Watch the full video above for more.