3 August 2023

'Yes' campaign on track: Volunteers connect with community at local train stations

| Keeli Royle
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Four volunteers with a vote yes sign and pamphlets at Wollongong train station.

‘Yes’ campaign volunteers Jeanette Wilson, Jane Robertson, Ann Hollifield and Theresa Huxtable at Wollongong train station. Photo: Jeremy Lasek.

Campaigners have connected with morning commuters right across the South Coast railway line to raise awareness in the Illawarra about the need for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Local volunteers spent hours outside platforms with pamphlets to talk about the issues directly with those who will be voting in the upcoming referendum.

“We just feel that the debate and the discussion has been very much focused on politicians and what I describe as not your typical average Australians ,” Illawarra Yes23 organiser Jeremy Lasek said. “This was about making those connections and getting a sense of what people are thinking, how much knowledge people have about the referendum and how they like to receive their information.”

The Illawarra campaign has continued to gain momentum since its official launch last month, with hundreds of volunteers in Wollongong and Shellharbour joining the cause.

READ ALSO Debunking myths and misinformation: The new campaign on the Voice to Parliament aiming to inform the Illawarra

And there are positive signs that the issue is resonating with local people.

“Others said they weren’t interested in receiving a pamphlet because they’ve already decided in most cases to vote yes, which was very promising from our perspective,” Mr Lasek said.

But the campaign organiser said that while most people in the wider community were aware of the referendum, many had put it to the back of their minds until a date is set.

“For most people it doesn’t seem to be real at the moment and I guess by being out and proactive, we’re trying to let people know that perhaps it is time to get real and to start getting some information and making some informed decisions,” Mr Lasek said.

Information and education is at the heart of the campaign and local organisers are ensuring that everyone in the community gets a chance to ask their questions.

The public is encouraged to join the group as they gather at North Wollongong this Sunday 6 August from 9 am to hear from local Aboriginal leaders about the campaign.

“That’s the core of the whole Voice referendum, it’s understanding just how difficult and challenging it is for our First Nations people in Australia right now,” Mr Lasek said.

READ ALSO ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ put forward their cases for Voice referendum

He hoped that by hearing firsthand experiences from First Nations people, the rest of the community would understand why this vote was so crucial.

“They’re just struggling to keep up in so many areas, be it health, education, employment, incarceration, life expectancy, it’s just a long list that keeps getting longer,” Mr Lasek said.

“What we’ve been doing to support our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over so many decades hasn’t worked, so that’s why I’m supporting the Voice, because we need to do something different and to me listening to the people who are affected is just a sensible way to go forward.”

For more information visit the Wollongong Yes23 website, Facebook page or drop by their information stall on Fridays at Crown Street Mall.

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