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The Voice vote: it's time to have your say on history

Many young voters will cast a ballot for the first time this Saturday -- and it will be on a question of historic constitutional change. How have they reached their decision in the Voice to Parliament referendum? Matthew Parkhill, Ruby Alexander and Christina Hatzis find out


The question may be straightforward -- with a simple Yes or No answer -- but the conversation surrounding the Voice to Parliament has been anything but straightforward, clouded by allegations of racism, secret agendas and political gamesmanship.

For students at Swinburne, the swirling debate has been a focus since March, when The Burne first revealed that the university would be supporting a Yes vote in the referendum, a position officially confirmed during Reconciliation Week in May.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Engagement and Wiradjuri man, Professor John Evans, said: "We welcome this opportunity to unite to create a better future for all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – and believe it is a critical moment for our community to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition and representation."

Yes supporters at the Melbourne rally in September. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

This sentiment has been echoed by advocacy groups such as “Melbourne for Yes”, which staged rallies across the country last month, declaring the Voice an opportunity to “build a better and stronger Australia.”

The Australian Electoral Commission has recorded the “largest enrolment in history” ahead of the referendum -- 17.5 million voters. But polling in recent months suggests the Yes campaign faces an uphill battle, particularly given the challenging benchmark for victory in a national referendum: not just a majority of votes, but a majority of votes in a majority of states, meaning four of the six states must support the Yes side. The Guardian's database of national polls from 10 different companies now suggests around a 45 per cent support for the change, though most polls are still detecting a sizeable number of undecided voters who could swing either way in the final days.

But the young vote skews Yes: the AEC says there about 1.8 million voters in the 18-25 age group and The Guardian’s polling coverage suggests the majority are backing the Voice.

This was reflected inThe Burne's discussions with students on campus in recent days.

Zoe, a media and communications student, said she was pretty confident she would be voting Yes.

“From what I know, 80 per cent of Indigenous people are for the Voice and I think it’s a good step towards closing the gap," she said.

She says people might be influenced by the avalanche of information, especially online, and people being trapped in "filter bubbles" -- where their media diet isolates them from alternative views.’

“I think there’s a bit of ignorance to learn or to accept what the Voice is. I think people are just scared to change. I am a Yes voter, so I’m seeing a lot of Yes media, and I think it goes the same for No votes. Once you establish what you believe in, that’s the media you’re going to get.”

Masilas, a fourth year film and TV student, is unsure of the specifics of the Voice but understands it is an advisory body and believes it is “super important” to recognise Aboriginal culture and affairs in Parliament and will be voting Yes’

“I think statistically Aboriginal people are less advantaged in multiple areas like socio-economically, and so I think it's important to provide a voice not just because they are in that position, but also because they come with their own culture, and its important to acknowledge that as well,” he said.

Masilas said most of his information about the Voice comes from social media, but he had tried to “keep an open mind”.

Keeley and Maddy, media and communications students, will both be voting Yes. Both say social media is their main source of information, as well as information booklets advocates have been giving out across Naarm.

Keeley said she believed everyone deserved a right to a voice in Parliament and “can’t believe it’s taken this long” to represent First Nations People in the constitution. Maddy said it was important to “hear from Indigenous people what they want to see rather than people making decisions on their behalves.”

“I've heard people saying it's a big change to the constitution, like it's one of the biggest, and they're just scared that it is, and they don't know a lot about it; only that it's going to change things and they don't like that."

Ben, who is doing his honours in Psychology, will also be voting Yes.

“I think there are a lot of different opinions in the media, especially on platforms like Tik-Tok. If you read into it, it doesn’t really impact you as much as it would.”

Will, an architecture student, said he understood the Voice to Parliament as a “board to talk to” rather than a legislative body, and he will be voting Yes.

“I think it is important that they have a voice.I think everyone deserves some sort of recognition,” he said.


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