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Pearson backs Voice despite wavering opinion polls

Dechlan Brennan -

Cape York Indigenous leader and co-architect of the Uluru Statement, Noel Pearson, has said he believes that the Yes vote will prevail, even in the face of declining opinion polls.

Speaking on ABC RN on Thursday morning, Mr Pearson said he wasn't contemplating a failed referendum for the Yes campaign.

"We're not going to fail…This is the most important vote in two hundred or something years of European presence in Australia. It is simply the most important vote we will ever have," he said.

"It is a question about getting the pre-existence of the first peoples reconciled with the European presence in this country. We never did it 1770, we never did it 1788, we never did it in 1901."

Pearson told host Hamish McDonald that the referendum is not about symbolic acknowledgment, but recognition.

"We are the generation that finally has the opportunity to settle this question (of recognition)," he said.

"The recognition has to be substantial, practical. It has to have an impact for the better on the lives of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Australians, to close the gap, to reconcile.

"It's not just a symbolic acknowledgement in the constitution."

Mr Pearson dismissed questions about a lack of public detail for Australians, saying "there's been no public policy issue subject to more scrutiny and detail than this one."

He also defended the declining vote in his home state of Queensland, saying the people he talked to want the voice to succeed.

"I am talking to people right across Queensland…my sense in talking to ordinary Australians on the streets, in the suburbs, about the importance of this election…we have a lot of ground in front of us," he said.

"Queensland is the home of both Aborigines and the Torres Strait Islanders.

"So, the first peoples of Australia come from that state, it is an important state, it is one that we have to win, and I am feeling the prospects of doing so are on the rise."

In response to claims from the No vote that the Yes campaign had shelved an advertising drive with prominent Indigenous Australians including Cathy freeman and Ash Barty, Pearson said he had no idea where that story came from but hoped that all those people would "join the yes campaign" in the coming months.

"Because the alternative is absolutely not contemplatable," he said.

"It would be a bad thing for Australia if we voted no on this. This is out one responsibility, this our one chance to get it right."

"It will be the country's date with destiny in October."

Pearson compared the vote to the "bitter cold years of advocacy" around the same-sex marriage debate, which eventually reached "the right result."

"We are now close to our destination," he said.


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