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As it happened: Melbourne's Walk For Yes

Thousands of people have rallied around Australia in support of a Yes vote at the October 14 referendum on the Voice to Parliament. The Burne's team of Matthew Parkhill and Ruby Alexander were in the thick of it at the Melbourne rally this afternoon.

"History's calling -- Yes!" was the chant and You're The Voice was the song as tens of thousands of people jammed Melbourne's CBD on Sunday for the Walk For Yes.

Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett led the huge crowd -- which was too big to be contained in Federation Square -- in the closing performance of the afternoon, after an hour of speeches and musical moments on a sunny Melbourne Sunday.

The crowd marched from the State Library to Federation Square, where they heard speeches, including from the federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney.

Ms Burney told the crowd a Yes vote would help bridge the gap.

"It has be the theme of the Yes campaign and it is going to be how we win the referendum. Today in Brisbane, there has been 20,000 people and I know that Melbourne likes a good march, and you’ve certainly shown up today, so thank you," she said.

"One of the reasons that you’ve all come today is that you all understand, that behind the many statistics that come out about our people, that there is real people, real families, real communities.

"You have the chance to give indigenous Australians a greater say in the future. You can write yes to recognition, yes to a voice, and yes to a better future."

Mia Wray and Marlon Motlop kicked off the afternoon of musical performances, with Midnight Oil and Spiderbait following as the headliners to close the rally. Motlop performed From Paradise, by Uncle Archie Roach, who died last year.

Scenes from the Melbourne rally. Photos: Ruby Alexander

Federal ministers Mark Dreyfus and Linda Burney as the Melbourne rally heads towards Federation Square. (Photo: Matthew Parkhill)

The national rallies coincided with the launch of a $20 million advertising campaign to drive home the Yes message, with a new "Yes makes it possible" commercial featuring a young Indigenous boy asking: "Will I grow up in a country that hears my voice?"

Aunty Jill Gallagher told the crowd: "It’s about all Australians having a voice. It’s not just about Aboriginal people having a voice, it’s about all Australians having a voice.

Aunty Jill Gallagher addresses the crowd at Federation Square. (Photo: Matthew Parkhill)

"You have one of the oldest contemporary cultures in the world in your own backyard. A Voice will say to the world we are not just an 'England in the sun' and we do have an ancient culture and we should all be proud of it -- a Voice will allow all of our children to know and understand and value and be apart of our culture.

"When I was born in my own country, in 1955 I was not my own person. I was 12 years old when this country decided I was my own person. A voice will give our people and our ancient cultures real standing in this country. Our people who fought in wars, our people who won gold medals, our people who came back from those wars and were not recognised.

"Eighty per cent of Aboriginal people support the Voice -- my hope is that 80 per cent of Australians support the Voice.”

The crowd was growing from mid-morning as the city was bathed in sunshine. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Brian Stevens, a representative of the First Nations peoples assembly of Victoria and a Gunai Kurnai man, said the “generosity and the spirit of the people” was the highlight of the march.

Brian Stevens celebrated the spirit of the crowd. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

“Just the generosity and the spirit of the people to celebrate recognising this time for the First Nations people,” he said.

“For someone who has been working in Aboriginal affairs for 35 years, I definitely see change."

Dimitry, an NDIS support worker from Brunswick, told The Burne: "Aboriginal people were never consulted about out constitution and it's time we recognise that and gave them a voice."

Melbourne participant Dimitry at the Yes rally outside the State Library. (Photo: Matthew Parkhill)

Lisa from St Kilda says she is walking to help counter the narrative that that the Yes campaign is struggling.

“I’m very happy about the crowd … I hope that by everyone seeing us here physically we change some of that propaganda that there isn’t much of a Yes campaign.”

A Yes banner is unveiled at the State Library as the rally begins. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Marchers rehearsed a rendition of You're The Voice -- the John Farnham classic that was launched as the Yes campaign's official anthem two weeks ago -- ahead of the rally, which kicks off at the State Library at noon.

Yes23 Campaign Director Dean Parkin said community support was building across Australia.

“Australians from all parts of our country will be out in force today in the strongest signal of support for the Yes campaign to date,” Mr Parkin said. “We expect tens of thousands of Australians will come together at over 40 walks in all states and territories to back a successful referendum on 14 October."

Broadcaster and comedian Libbi Gorr was among the prominent Victorians marching in support of the Yes campaign.

Yes supporters gathered for a team breakfast in the CBD before the rally. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Mr Parkin said it was a people-powered campaign, with almost 40,000 volunteers nationwide.

"There is no better time for Australians to be part of this unifying moment. I encourage Australians to come along with friends and family today and find out more about the positive difference a Yes vote will make to improving the lives of Indigenous people."

Melbourne Yes supporters rehearsed You're The Voice ahead of the rally start. (Photo: Matthew Parkhill)

"If not now, then when. If not us, then who." (Video: Ruby Alexander)


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