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Victorian Aboriginal organisations rally behind the Voice as voting begins

Giovanni Torre -

First Nations' leaders from across Victoria united on Sunday to deliver "a powerful show of support" for a 'Yes' vote to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Aboriginal leaders and allies gathered in front of the murals at the Aboriginal Advancement League, where they called on Australians to seize what event organisers called "the once in a lifetime opportunity to galvanise this country" when they head to the polls on October 14.

The leaders in attendance said the "overwhelming majority" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support a voice, and expressed hope the majority of Australians will support the Voice on referendum day.

Wurundjeri-willam artist Mandy Nicholson's Welcome To Country was followed by a performance from the Djirri Djirri Dance Group.

Several prominent leaders delivered statements including Aboriginal Advancement League chief executive Dr Esme Bamblett, First Peoples Assembly of Victoria Co-Chair Rueben Berg, Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook AM, VACCHO (Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) chief executive Jill Gallagher AO, and former First Peoples' Assembly Co-Chair Marcus Stewart.

Ms Gallagher said she had faith Australians would vote yes – as they have "everything to gain and nothing to lose".

"Having an Aboriginal voice to parliament will elevate our ancient and contemporary cultures to take their rightful place in this country – but more importantly take their rightful place in this world alongside the ancient Greeks and the ancient Egyptians."

Ms Bamblett said a successful 'yes' vote would be "amazing and exciting" whilst paying tribute to her late nan.

"October 15 is my late-Nan's birthday. My grandmother fought valiantly to have her voice heard in this country. I want to wake up on October 15 and say 'Happy Birthday Nan – they voted yes.'"

Image: VACCHO.

Mr Stewart told the crowd in attendance that a 'Yes' vote from Australians would "truly change the barometer for Aboriginal people".

"It will give our kids the same start at life as every other Australian and that's what is critically important."

Mr Berg said the Voice will deliver better outcomes for Communities.

"These remarkable leaders from Community standing behind me want a voice. We do not want our issues to continue to be a political football. We do not want to be relying on the goodwill of politicians – and on the goodwill of media for our voices to be heard. We want our voice in the constitution so it will always be there."

In a statement issued Monday, VACCHO paid tribute to "the inspiring Aboriginal leaders from across Victoria who attended yesterday's special event for their generosity, leadership, and vision".

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