Whenever there is a partisan political debate, a range of opinions flood the media. Freedom of speech and respect for opposing ideas are key tenets of a working democracy but often this can make it hard to determine fact from opinion. Today we take a look at both sides of the Voice argument and provide some links to reputable and neutral sources to help you navigate the debate and be an engaged and active citizen.
The Yes campaign
There are multiple groups contributing towards the Yes campaign. Coordinating the Yes campaign is the organisation Yes23. In Reconciliation Australia’s two-yearly survey on attitudes to reconciliation, they found that around 80% of Indigenous people are in support of a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
The proposal of a Voice to Parliament has been put to the Australian people by the Albanese government as an advisory body that will formally enable First Nations people to offer advice to government on policies that directly affect them. The various groups of the Yes campaign argue that a Voice to Parliament means recognising Indigenous people as the First Peoples of Australia and listening to advice from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that governments can make more informed decisions with better outcomes.
The No campaign
The No campaign is divided into two different arguments: the ‘conservative’ No campaign and the ‘progressive’ No campaign. The conservative side argues that the Voice is divisive and gives Indigenous people special recognition. One of the leading voices of the conservatives is Fair Australia, an offshoot of the political lobby group Advance. The face of this side of the campaign is Liberal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, recently appointed the new shadow minister for Indigenous Australians.
The progressive side of the campaign argues that the Voice will not provide enough meaningful change. Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe is a prominent leader of this side of the campaign. She argues for truth-telling and treaty as more progressive alternatives to the Voice to Parliament advisory body.
If you don’t know…
Both sides of the campaign have accused each other of spreading misinformation or lies. The No side of the campaign has developed a recent catch phrase: ‘If you don’t know, vote no’. Instead, we at the Centre of Democracy encourage everyone to be active citizens and if you don’t know, find out more. In order for democracy to thrive we urge all Australian voters to be informed of the facts and to make sure that their vote is effective.
Here are some links to research, information and videos about the referendum and its implications presented by a range of public and private organisations:
Run through Uni SA, The Voice Legal Literacy Project provides access to a collection of videos and other visual resources for understanding the issues being debated.
Organised by a group of university law students in Adelaide, Heart to Heart provides links to sources, referendum-related activities and a podcast of interviews with various experts.
Deakin University, Victoria, have put together a guide with video and text resources to help members of their community ‘to engage with viewpoints surrounding the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, learn about the Uluru Statement and cast an informed vote in the upcoming referendum’.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart official website includes a page of FAQs specifically about the Voice to Parliament.
Our colleagues at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House have put together an A-Z of Australian referendums. Here you can learn more about Australia’s democracy and why referendums matter.
For information about referendums and the practicalities of voting on the day head to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website. As with all Australian elections, the AEC is managing the electoral roll, the supervision of polling stations and the counting of the ballots.
 Reconciliation Australia, ‘Voice to Parliament’, 2023, https://www.reconciliation.org.au/reconciliation/support-a-voice-to-parliament/.
 Bronwyn Carlson, ‘There are two sides to the ‘no’ campaign on the Voice. Who are they and why are they opposed to it?’, 7 September 2023, https://theconversation.com/there-are-two-sides-to-the-no-campaign-on-the-voice-who-are-they-and-why-are-they-opposed-to-it-212362.
Featured image: Unity pin, artwork by Indigenous artist Allan Sumner and pin created by Ochre Dawn, HT 2020.0053