About a couple dozen students from the campus Left gathered in the middle of the Quadrangle on Friday afternoon in support of the “Yes” vote for the upcoming Voice to Parliament referendum.
The speakout was organised by the USYD students vote yes campaign, and emphasised the Uluru Statement-proposed model of Voice, Treaty and Truth.
USyd SRC Indigenous Officer Ben McGrory spoke to the importance of appealing to “everyday” Australians.
“Outside of this campus, there’s a lot of people who don’t watch the news, or who watch News Corp,” who think the Voice will take their land, McGrory stated. He noted some success in changing minds through conversation with intending “No” voters by breaking down the meaning of Voice, Treaty and Truth.
McGrory also noted that the University of Sydney is the “oldest university in Australia, and yet we have the lowest number of enrolments [in New South Wales] of Indigenous students,” calling on the university to support Treaty and Truth. A number of departments within the university have endorsed the Voice to Parliament, whilst USyd itself has pledged to “facilitate respectful conversations to ensure our community is well informed and can exercise their vote with conviction later this year.”
Wiradjuri Wailwan student and Honi Soit Editor Ethan Floyd said that Australians would have seen racist “No” rhetoric at the Conservative Political Action Conference, stating that such rhetoric “doesn’t belong here,” but rather in the “Trumpist invective of 2015-2016 America.” Floyd denounced viewing “Indigenous people as a problem to be solved, rather than a community to be respected.” They also spruiked the upcoming 14 September march from Customs House to the New South Wales Parliament against Santos’ plans for coal seam gas (CSG) extraction on Gomeroi land.
“The Voice is a way to combat the university’s attacks on First Nation students and staff, whether it’s inheriting scholarships, whether it’s enrolments … This is a way for us to tell the university and to show management that we are united against racism and against anti-Indigenous policy,” remarked Floyd.
National Union of Students President Bailey Riley kept the message straightforward, urging Australians to “Vote ‘Yes’ to improve Indigenous rights – it’s that simple,” while also stressing that “much more” is needed.
Riley also called for better campaigning by the affirmative side, questioning how the “Yes” campaign could “lose TikTok to the boomers”.
“[W]e’re not seeing young people out there actually supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign, so it’s really good to see people here today out there, supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign in a big way.”
Hersha Kadkol, a socialist activist, noted that eight of the twenty deaths in custody in 2021-22 were of Indigenous people, denouncing as racist the successful campaign to overturn legislation aimed at protecting Indigenous cultural sites in Western Australia. Kadkol also referenced Dutton “saying that Indigenous people are going to come for the backyards of Australian people,” stressing the importance of “calling out the lies of the racist right” and saying a “huge” number of “No” voters, while not racist, are ambivalent.
Erin O’Leary, a Dhungutti student activist, stated that it is important for a “Yes” vote to win, as it would show “this country is in support … of justice” for Indigenous Australians, while also stressing the importance of criticising the Voice and pointing out that “one blanket treaty does not work” for all of Australia.
The Voice to Parliament referendum will be held on 14 October.