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Voice push in regions intensifies ahead of first votes

Cassandra Morgan -

On tree-lined land in Wurundjeri and Wathaurong country, locals came together and wiped away tears as John Farnham's 'You're the Voice' soundtracked their hope for change.

The campaign for a 'yes' vote in Australia's regions has intensified as the historic referendum fast approaches, with voting in remote areas to start on Monday.

A community information session at Djirra at Melton, about 50km west of Melbourne, on Thursday attracted a host of Indigenous leaders who spoke with a sense of urgency about the "momentous" opportunity the referendum represents.

The speakers included Olympian and former senator Nova Peris; Aboriginal author, historian and activist Jackie Huggins; Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation chief executive Jill Gallagher; and, longtime Aboriginal corrections worker Shaun Braybrook.

They tried to wrap their strength and resilience around the audience in the face of adversity.

"When I represented Australia, I represented the whole of this country," Peris told local campaign supporters at the information session.

"I just didn't represent Aboriginal people. I represented every white person and every multi-cultured person proudly and with dignity and with grace.

"Come October 15, if we are not seen, it is a sad indictment of this country.

"The world is watching."

The 'yes' movement has rolled out its campaign to all corners of the country in an effort to sway undecided voters and bolster the number of people spreading its message.

The 'no' campaign made no public appearances on Thursday following its last major event in Adelaide earlier this week, where hundreds gathered in the key battleground state.

A primary aim of the 'yes' campaign has been to dispel misinformation, which Djirra chief executive Antoinette Braybrook said was intended to inject fear and uncertainty into people's minds.

"We know that much of what is being reported through the media is misinformation and lies," she told the information session.

"Our aim is to provide information, clarify any confusion and answer questions."

Ms Gallagher questioned how Aboriginal people, if the 'yes' vote failed, would ensure their voice and culture didn't disappear through the decades.

Peris added that if the vote failed, she would feel sick to her bones - however, pleas from the likes of Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman for people to vote 'yes' gave her hope the referendum would succeed.

"People need to understand that this isn't an election; this is a referendum," Peris told AAP.

"This is an opportunity for Australians to assert their democracy ... and right a wrong, (which is for) us - the First Nations people, the first Australian DNA of this continent - to be put on the nation's birth certificate."

Early voting centres will open on October 2 and 3 ahead of the voice referendum.

Cassandra Morgan - AAP


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