The New England Times polled 562 locals on The Voice and 53% say they intend to vote Yes in next weeks referendum. 43% intend to vote no, and 4% are still undecided.
Increasing division and consistent polling nationwide point to the referendum failing next week, but Yes campaigners are hoping for a late turn around as there is still a stunningly low awareness of the imminent poll.
Respected Anaiwan Elder Steve Widders has passionately appealed for people to vote Yes, saying things are not working the way they are.
“The Voice is about recognising that the Aboriginal people have been here for a long time, and we need to hear from them,” Mr Widders said.
“The Government should not be doing anything about us without us. Nothing about us without us.”
His call is clearly being heard locally, with more than three quarters of Armidale residents who took part in our poll saying they intend to vote Yes.
“Very strong supporter of the Yes vote, based on knowledge of Australian and local Armidale history, and involvement with community organisations for social justice,” Barbara from Armidale said.
“The Voice proposal is … a simple proposition of recognition of Aboriginal people and allowing them input through the Voice, into government policies that affect such things as their lives, their health, their education and housing. It is an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the significant government expenditure on our First Nations People. Sadly, it has been distorted and misrepresented by people intent on derailing it,” Joanna from Armidale said.
The second strongest level of support was from people in Moree, where more than two thirds of respondents to our poll said they would vote Yes, but for more practical than ideological reasons.
“Look, it has nothing much to do with me and won’t affect my life, but it means a lot to them. And if it helps us to have less trouble in town, then good. If it doesn’t help, well it can’t hurt,” said Jake from Moree.
“Stuff has worked better in our town when local Aboriginal leaders have had a seat at the table,” Kate from Moree said.
Most of those who were intending to vote No were from our smaller villages, and often they gave reasons that were quite obviously and unashamedly racist. One stated that they believed the Voice was about “giving Aboriginals more privileges for free or highly discounted prices”, while another said “all Aboriginals want is more, they get too much already, go out and work like we all do”. A very small number said they were not convinced on the merits of the proposal.
Those still undecided were largely struggling to connect the proposal to real world impacts, such as what it would do to create jobs or reduce crime in our towns. The largest block of undecided voters was in Tamworth.
“How much impact will this have in our day to day lives?” asked Simon from Tamworth.
A number of respondents, voting both Yes and No, raised concerns about the level of misinformation in the debate, and a strong majority wanted more information, mythbusting and fact checks on the various claims of both sides of the debate.
The referendum is being held next Saturday, October 14. Early voting is open in major centres all week.
Note: poll is of New England Times readers and not a representative sample. Margin of error 4% .
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