Australians march in support of indigenous gov’t advisory body ahead of referendum

Sydney, Australia, Sep 17 (EFE).- Thousands of people gathered in cities across Australia on Sunday to show support for a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations advisory committee to the government ahead of a referendum on the issue.

Images from public broadcaster ABC showed large crowds in cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Darwin, as well as in New York City.

Marches in support were expected in every state, with less than a month to go before the Oct. 14 referendum, and as the “Yes” vote looked to be losing strength in the polls.

Australians will be asked to answer “Yes” or “No” to the question: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognize the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

The initiative proposes the creation of an independent body, called Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (commonly referred to as The Voice), to represent indigenous Australians to advise government and parliament on the views of and matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

If approved, the body will form part of a new three-point chapter to be included in Australia’s 1901 constitution, entitled “Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – 129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

Despite the strength of marches such as Sunday’s, the “Yes” vote looked to be losing strength as the date approaches. The Sydney Morning Herald last week estimated support at 43 percent, compared to 46 percent the previous month.

To achieve a change in the constitution, the referendum, which is supported by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, needs more than 50 percent of the votes across Australia and a majority in at least four of the six states of the country.

The country’s indigenous peoples, who represent 3.8 percent of Australia’s 26 million population, have been victims of mistreatment since colonization, in addition to being dispossessed of their lands and systematically discriminated against by institutions, organizations and society. EFE


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