Indigenous leader and lawyer Noel Pearson has welcomed a substantial change for the Yes campaign as he says it moves out of the realm of politics and into the hands of the people.
Speaking at a community gathering in Redfern, in Sydney, on Saturday morning, he said the Yes campaign would focus on a message of unity in the lead up to the Voice to Parliament referendum.
“We’re so very pleased that the politics of division and anger and suspicion and fear generated by politicians is now behind us,” he told the crowd in Sydney’s inner west.
“We’ve got the next four weeks to have conversations with our fellow Australians about the power of listening.”
Australians will head to the polls on October 14 to vote on whether to amend the constitution.
The majority of Australians and the majority of the six states must vote yes in order for the referendum to succeed.
“This is about recognising the Aboriginal And Torres Strait Island people as the first peoples of Australia,” Mr Pearson said.
“That is a principle that no one should really have any objection to. It is simply the truth. It’s history. It’s a fact.”
Despite recent polls showing an alarming drop in support for the Yes campaign, the Indigenous leader said he believed Australians would choose to acknowledge the nation’s first people in the constitution.
“Australia is going to be a better country on October 15,” he said fervently.
“It’s a great country now, but on October 15, we will move to a new future.”
Yes23 spokesman Rachel Perkins said the Yes campaign aimed to “bring the country together” and “make it whole” to the packed community gathering on Saturday.
“This is a message of friendship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are extending to the nation and we are confident that our fellow Australians are going to accept that hand of friendship,” she told the cheering crowd.
“It’s time … to draw a line in the sand and give us the right to have a voice to change our lives.”
Ms Perkins explained the Voice to Parliament was simply “a modest proposal” which would change Indigenous lives for the better.
“No is about the status quo,” she said of the opposing Voice campaign.
“Yes is for hope, Yes is for unity and Yes is a change for people whose lives are at the bottom rung of the ladder in this country.”
For Indigenous leader Aunty Norma Ingram, the Voice is the opportunity to resolve a lifelong battle for recognition of the nation’s first people.
She said it was encouraging to see awareness of Indigenous issues and stories had increased ahead of the upcoming referendum.
“My parents were fighting for Aboriginal citizens’ rights in 1938, and we are still here fighting because we (don’t) have a voice,” she said.
“Get out there, people, and vote yes because it’s not only good for Aboriginal people, it’s good for all Australians.”
Former AFL star Michael O’Loughlin agreed that a successful referendum would be the first step in unifying Australia.
“Together we can do a lot of incredible things for this great country,” the former Sydney Swans player said.
“It is a great country but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said a Yes vote would bring the country together and provide solutions to longstanding problems.
“This is a moment in our time when we get to do something positive to move us forward,” she said.
“This is how we make Australia better.”
Indigenous actor Luke Carroll, Tribal Warrior CEO Shane Philips and musician Tim Freedman also gave stirring endorsements for the Yes vote.
All of the Indigenous leaders and activists encouraged attendees to join the 50,000 people who had signed up to the Yes campaign walks in the major cities this weekend.
Ms Perkins said the walks would be an opportunity to demonstrate unity and a desire for change as the Yes campaign enters the crucial final month.
“We’ve got a month to go and we’re going to give every day our best shot,” she said.
Despite the overwhelming positivity of the Yes campaign, recent polling has revealed the No campaign is leading in every state.
A recent poll shows national support for the Voice plummeted 21 per cent over the past year, with similar declines in every state.