Thousands of people turned out for rallies across Australia on Sunday in support of a campaign to recognise the country’s Indigenous people in the constitution ahead of a referendum later this year.
Across several cities in Australia, organisers rallied for the “Come Together for Yes” campaign which is likely to be held between October and December, local media reported.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney addressed a crowd at the Brisbane Yes23 event kicking off the day of action on Sunday. She emphasised that a “Yes” vote would make a much-needed difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“How often do we get the chance to put our shoulder against the wheel of history and give it a bit of a shove?” Ms Burney asked. “It comes once a lifetime and this is our time. This is about moving Australia forward for everyone.”
Reports said that many hundreds of people lined the steps at the Emma Miller Place park on Roma Street to listen to speeches and watch cultural performances.
ABC News quoted Rachel Perkins, the co-founder of the Yes23 campaign as saying that “you don’t necessarily see it on television. You don’t see it in the newspapers, but there are conversations happening around kitchen tables, in sporting clubs, in workplaces around the country. And that’s just going to grow”.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government is in support of the change while the opposition Liberal-National conservatives have urged a “No” vote.
On Sunday, an Australian Council of Social Service tweet showed Sydney rally attendees in T-shirts with the words “Vote Yes” and caps with the words “The Uluru Statement”, referring to a key document that calls for an Indigenous Voice, Reuters reported.
“These community events are opportunities for people to come together and gain valuable information about the importance of a successful referendum later this year,” Yes23 campaign director Dean Parkin said in a statement.
“We’re asking all Australians to walk beside us – vote yes for a better future,” a Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet urged the crowd to vote yes to change Indigenous lives.
At the University of Wollongong, Jaymee Beveridge from the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre told those gathered the campaign was a long game. “We are exhausted but we are hopeful warriors,” she said.
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