Australia's black, red and yellow Aboriginal flag (left) flies beside Australia's national flag over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney on July 11, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)
SYDNEY – Two key Australian Indigenous leaders opposed to a proposal to constitutionally recognize the country's Aboriginal and Torres Island people joined forces on Thursday in an effort to strengthen their campaign ahead of a referendum later this year.
Warren Mundine, a former Labor Party national president who is Indigenous, and a group backed by shadow Indigenous Minister Jacinta Nampijinpa Price will pool their resources together for the joint 'No' campaign to be called 'Australians for Unity'.
"It makes sense to merge because the 'Yes' campaign has one umbrella group driving their campaign and we need to do the same with ours," Mundine told ABC television.
Australians will be asked to vote, likely between October and December, if they want to change the constitution to include a "Voice to Parliament", a committee that can advise lawmakers on matters that affect the lives of Indigenous people
Australians will be asked to vote, likely between October and December, if they want to change the constitution to include a "Voice to Parliament", a committee that can advise lawmakers on matters that affect the lives of Indigenous people.
Making up about 3.2 percent of Australia's 26 million population, the Aboriginal people were marginalized by British colonial rulers and are not mentioned in the 122-year-old constitution.
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Mundine said the joint campaign will help bring together volunteers and "several million dollars" of funds.
While a majority of Indigenous people still support the Voice, others argue it is a distraction from achieving practical and positive outcomes, and that it would not fully resolve the issues affecting them.
A YouGov poll out last month showed 83 percent of Indigenous Australians support the referendum, while a wider poll by the Guardian said 60 percent of Australians will vote for it.
Any constitutional alterations in Australia require a national referendum. To succeed, a referendum requires a national majority of votes as well as a majority of votes in at least four of the six states.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has staked much of his political capital on the referendum in a country that has only passed eight out of 44 since it became an independent nation. The most recent successful ones were in 1977.
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The conservative Liberal-National opposition coalition will oppose the national vote.