They took to the streets to defend the historic Aboriginal rights reform, which will go to a referendum on October 14. Thousands of people took part in demonstrations in major cities across Australia on Sunday 17 September. Walk for Yes (“March for Yes”) Ahead of this referendum, Indigenous Australians could be given a constitutional right to be consulted on policies affecting them.
Two hundred years after British colonisation, Aboriginal people – whose ancestors have lived on the continent for around 60,000 years – have shorter life expectancies and lower levels of education than other Australians and are significantly more likely to die in prison.
“I think now is the right time to have a voice in Parliament.”Laurel Johnson, 58, who works in Aboriginal social services, said she joined hundreds of people who attended the Sydney rally. Cameron Lum, 34, attended the rally in Sydney “A change long overdue in this country”. “I think it will pave the way for massive First Nations-led political change.”He declared.
Yes supporters also rallied in Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart and Alice Springs. They say the identity reform plan by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left government, if adopted, could help redress these imbalances.
However, recent polls show around 60% of voters oppose the reform, representing almost a turnaround from last year. Opponents of the proposal say it will add unnecessary bureaucracy while granting special privileges to tribal people. They regret the lack of detail on the reform, which will be enacted by Parliament if the Yes vote wins.
For the reform to be adopted, it would need majority support across Australia in a referendum, but also a majority in at least four of the six states. Voting is compulsory and non-voting without valid reason will be fined 20 Australian dollars.
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