NRL backs a 'yes' vote in voice referendum

·3-min read

The National Rugby League has backed a 'yes' vote in the upcoming Indigenous voice referendum with a veteran star describing it as a "massive step forward".

The NRL said it was a proud supporter of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and was committed to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice.

Its decision is the first support for a 'yes' vote from a major sporting code.

It follows support for the yes campaign from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and AFL clubs Collingwood and West Coast.

There are also reports a coalition of other sporting bodies will announce their support later this year.

"First Nations communities have deep bonds with rugby league and are part of our fabric at all levels, from grassroots participants and fans to the Indigenous stars who light up the NRL and NRLW," the league said in a statement.

"True change comes through listening, learning and taking action and we encourage everyone in the rugby league community to get informed by the facts, and use their voice so that we can move forward together."

The NRL has had its own independent voice since the establishment of the Australian Rugby League Commission.

The Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council plays an integral role in making representations to the commission with ideas and views on behalf of Indigenous people.

South Sydney Rabbitohs veteran Damien Cook welcomed the position taken by the NRL and said the club, which included other Indigenous stars including Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, was "right behind it as well".

"I haven't spoken to them about it but I am sure they would be very proud," Cook said.

"A massive step forward."

Yes campaign director Dean Parkin said the NRL's decision demonstrated the level of support that was building across the nation.

"It's absolutely brilliant that the NRL has come on board. The NRL has done a great thing today," he said.

Mr Parkin said he expected other sports codes to also back a 'yes' vote.

Announcing the AOC position on Saturday, president Ian Chesterman said the organisation believed a successful 'yes' vote would lead to reconciliation with Indigenous people.

"We did not take this decision lightly as we know there will be those within the Olympic movement who will vote 'no' and we respect their right to do so," he said.

The committee's decision was guided by its Indigenous advisory group.

Group chairman Patrick Johnson said it had considered both referendum campaigns before coming to its position to back the 'yes' vote.

"Respect for the opinions of others was very important to us," he said.

The AOC Athletes' Commission has also backed the 'yes' vote, with chairwoman Cate Campbell saying the stance could make a difference across the country.

The referendum, to be held sometime between October and December, is looking to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the Australian constitution.

It will be Australia's first referendum since 1999 and the first for about 6.4 million Australians.

Changing the constitution requires a double majority of voters, either at a national level from all states and territories or in at least four of the six states.