Key figures of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament say the referendum campaign has ‘tapped into a deep well of historical racism’.
Marcia Langton and Tom Calma, Ian Anderson, Yin Paradies and Ray Lovett made the comments in an article on the referendum for The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals.
In their article, they explained how a no vote will have a ‘profoundly negative effect’ on Indigenous Australians who have worked on reconciliation for nearly two decades.
Marcia Langton (pictured) is among a number of Indigenous academics who say the referendum process has opened up a ‘deep well of historical racism’
But they also highlighted the dark problem of the referendum process.
‘There are early signs that the referendum process itself is causing Indigenous Australians to experience higher levels of racism,’ they said.
‘We posit that this is partly because the referendum process taps into a deep well of historical racism that originated on the Australian frontier when Indigenous peoples ‘were violently dispossessed from their lands by the British’.’
‘Since the referendum was announced, there has been a substantial rise in threats, abuse, vilification, and hate speech against Indigenous peoples, both in person and online,’ the academics wrote.
They highlighted an Australian e-Safety Commission report from May that noted more than a 10 per cent increase in the number of complaints made by Indigenous people due to threats, harassment and online abuse.
The group said some Australians have been unreasonably challenging Indigenous people over their views of the referendum.
‘The Voice referendum process creates a substantial cultural load for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,’ they said.
‘Indigenous peoples are being asked, and expected, to engage in conversations around this topic and, often, are then challenged to defend their position.’
Professor Langton along with Tom Calma (pictured), Ian Anderson, Yin Paradies and Ray Lovett penned the article for The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals
The group said the referendum had resulted in ‘a substantial rise in threats, abuse, vilification, and hate speech against Indigenous peoples, both in person and online’ (pictured, Members of the Yolngu people from north-eastern Arnhem Land perform a dance at the Garma Festival)
The academics spoke of the significant impact the referendum would have on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australis, regardless of the final result.
‘Despite divergent positions, campaign groups identify this to be the most consequential referendum in the history of the Federation of Australia,’ it reads.
‘Whatever the result, it will have a profound effect on the future relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.’
They say if the referendum results in a ‘Yes’ vote, Indigenous people will have to collaborate ‘very closely’ with politicians to ensure that the voice legislation aligns with their aspirations for increased autonomy and control over their lives.
It comes as leading Yes campaigner Noel Pearson said a failed referendum would be ‘a disaster for all of us’.
‘I have been at this for 30 years working on these problems from the ground up, and I’m telling you that there is no plan B,’ he told 3AW radio.
‘We will all lose, including the No campaigners. We will lose. If we vote Yes, we’ll all win, including the No campaigners. This will be good for them and for the entire country if we vote Yes.’
He also had a tough message for Australians thinking about voting no: ‘Really? That people who lived here for 65,000 years are going to be rejected? Their recognition is not going to be implemented in the Constitution after 15 years?’
Early voting for the Voice is already underway, with support for ticking up for the first time in months, but still lags behind the ‘no’ vote.
Leading Yes campaigner Noel Pearson (pictured right) said a failed referendum would be ‘a disaster for all of us’, while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured left) said he was confident that the referendum was still ‘winnable’
The latest Guardian Essential poll found 43 per cent of its 1125 respondents will vote ‘yes’, up two per cent from last fortnight.
But 49 per cent intend to vote ‘no’ and eight per cent are undecided.
Anthony Albanese was confident that the referendum was still ‘winnable’ and said the undecided voters he had spoken to thought the proposal to establish an Indigenous Voice was ‘fair’.
‘If Australia votes yes, it will show respect for the First Australians, but it will do something else as well. We’ll feel better about ourselves as a nation,’ he said on Tuesday.
‘In voting yes, we’ll give three per cent of the population the opportunity to be heard, on matters that directly affect them, and they’ll be able to have a voice and be listened to and we’ll get better outcomes.’
The Prime Minister stated that the Voice will provide ‘better results’ and save the country money.
‘My plea to voters…is to look at what the question is before the Australian people,’ he said.
It says very clearly, in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia – that’s the recognition bit – and it just says ‘there shall be a body, called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. It may make representations … on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’.
‘There is nothing to fear here, everything to gain.’