Explainer-Indigenous people opposing Australia's Voice referendum

An Australian Aboriginal man blows into a shell as an indigenous man from the Torres Strait Islands wearing traditional dress performs during a welcoming ceremony at Government House in Sydney

By Praveen Menon

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia plans to hold a federal referendum later this year to constitutionally recognise its Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Island people through the establishment of a representative Voice that will provide non-binding advice to the parliament.

Indigenous citizens have inhabited the land for roughly 60,000 years but are not mentioned in the constitution and track well below national averages on most socio-economic measures.

Despite widespread support among Australians for the 'Voice to Parliament' campaign, not all First Nations people support the plans.

Here are some prominent Indigenous people and groups that are opposing the referendum, and the reasons behind it:


Mundine, a former Labor Party national president, heads the 'Recognise a Better Way' group that is leading a campaign calling for Australians to vote "No" in the referendum.

The group says on its website that its goal is to defeat the referendum to ensure it is not a "distraction" from achieving real, practical, and positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Mundine has said the Voice creates another layer of bureaucracy in Canberra and wont address the issues affecting Indigenous communities on the ground.

The group says it supports recognising the prior occupation of Aboriginal people in a preamble to the constitution rather than a new chapter in the constitution.


Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is leading Fair Australia, a subsidiary group of the conservative political lobbying group Advance Australia, which says it is campaigning to demonstrate that the Voice is "divisive, dangerous, expensive and not fair".

The group is against changes to the constitution, claiming it would divide Australians by race. Price has also expressed concern about the costs involved in the referendum.

Price and Mundine merged their lobby groups on Thursday to create a the joint "Australians for Unity" campaign.


Another prominent Indigenous leader opposing the referendum is Lidia Thorpe, an independent senator from Victoria who has labelled her campaign as the "progressive no". She left the Greens earlier this year after disagreeing with the party's support for the Yes campaign.

Thorpe argues that the Indigenous community don't agree with the traditionally conservative values put forward by the mainstream No campaign, but are also not aligned with the Yes campaign.

Thorpe has said that the incarceration and violence caused by colonisation can only end with a peace treaty between the government and Indigenous people. She argues that a treaty and truth-telling process should come first before the introduction of a representative voice in parliament.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)