Sydney — Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called on voters to show “the best of Australia” by backing a landmark Indigenous rights referendum on Tuesday, with just four days left to defy polls pointing to defeat.
Albanese travelled to the sacred Aboriginal site of Uluru, a giant red monolith in central Australia, on a media blitz to try to persuade sceptical voters to recognise Indigenous people in the 1901 constitution for the first time.
The constitutional amendment would also give Indigenous peoples a “Voice” – the right to be consulted about issues that affect their communities, many battling poorer health, lower quality education and higher rates of incarceration than other Australians.
“What I want to see is the best of Australia. We are a great multicultural success story,” Albanese told public broadcaster ABC, with Uluru dominating the background as he wore a wide-brimmed hat to fend off the desert sun.
Indigenous Australians put forward their idea for a Voice here at Uluru in 2017.
And on October 14, all Australians will have a chance to make it a reality. pic.twitter.com/N85IBcWzI1
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) October 10, 2023
Albanese said he had met a week ago with leaders of a range of faiths – all of them supporting the constitutional reform.
“That, to me, was a really moving moment of unity. That is the sort of Australia that I want to see, an Australia where we’re defined by our unity, not by our divisions,” he said.
Albanese’s centre-left government promised to call the referendum when it successfully campaigned for election in May last year, but support for it has since plummeted.
Recent polls indicate a split of about 60-40 against the “Voice”, with the conservative opposition attacking it as an ineffectual, bureaucratic reform that would divide Australia.
More than 200 years since British colonisation, Indigenous peoples — whose ancestors have lived on the continent for more than 60,000 years — endure entrenched inequalities, with lifespans about eight years shorter than the rest of the population.
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