City of Melbourne councillors unanimously back Voice to Parliament “yes” vote
City of Melbourne councillors have unanimously backed the “yes” campaign in the lead up to a vote on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.
The move saw it become the first capital city council to “adopt a firm position on the Voice” according to Lord Mayor Sally Capp, ahead of Australia’s first referendum since 1999 later this year.
A motion from the Lord Mayor affirmed the council’s support for the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart and the “yes” campaign for constitutional recognition.
It also committed to ensuring locals were as best informed as possible ahead of the significant vote.
“It’s important to affirm that the City of Melbourne is supportive of the principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the ‘yes’ campaign in particular as we go into the referendum,” Cr Capp said at the March 21 Future Melbourne Committee meeting.
“Referendums don’t happen very often, it’s important that we’re all involved … from my perspective, this referendum is one of the most critical in our lifetime.”
The Lord Mayor said that despite being an Australia-wide issue, local councils — as the closest level of government to the people — had an important role to play in ensuring “informed participation”.
“As many other councils have done, [we have] an obligation and responsibility that we have a practical role to play in what is a national debate and a national government-led reform,” she said.
But our practical role over the coming months is to help ensure that our community is engaged, connected, and informed about every aspect of the debate. It’s an important role that we can play, so people participate in this very significant discussion — that’s got to be the first hurdle.
Community engagement would include the sharing of information through public meetings and opportunities for discussion, speeches, social media, and other communications.
Following the meeting, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece was questioned on 3AW radio how the council could support the yes vote before it had (at the time) seen the final wording of the constitutional amendment and question.
However, Cr Reece said councillors were supporting a “principle”, and the technical wording of the question was being used to “confuse and scare” Australians.
The wording was confirmed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese two days after the meeting, but the final wording is now the subject of a federal parliamentary inquiry which isn’t due to report until May.
The council motion also noted that there was a “diversity of opinions” both “inside and outside Aboriginal communities” on the proposed Voice to Parliament.
“We acknowledge that the entire Aboriginal community is not unified in its position, as it wouldn’t be on any position in any community,” deputy chair of the council’s Aboriginal Melbourne portfolio Cr Dr Olivia Ball said.
However, Cr Dr Ball said there was a “strong majority and some very strong leading voices” within the community.
A fortnight after all City of Melbourne councillors confirmed their support for the voice, Federal Opposition leader Peter Dutton said his party would actively campaign against it.
Instead of a constitutionally enshrined voice, Mr Dutton proposed a legislated model focusing on local and regional (rather than national) voices, and symbolic constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.
However both of these have been rejected by Indigenous communities and the Uluru statement from the heart.
A total of 44 nationwide referendums have been held in Australia’s history, and only eight have been carried.
The last referendum was held in 1999, when almost 55 per cent of voters rejected the chance to become a republic.
In the same way that it is compulsory to vote in a general election, voting in a referendum is compulsory for those on the electoral roll. •