An information program on the upcoming voice to parliament referendum is being launched by the federal government, involving television and radio commercials and translations in a number of languages.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says the program will encourage Australians to get ready for the conversation about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through establishing a voice.
“All Australians need to be well-informed with access to a trusted source of information as they consider the proposal to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia through a referendum,” she said in a statement.
Under the program voters can learn about the proposal through Voice.gov.au ahead of the referendum to be held between October and December this year.
Ms Burney said the “neutral civics information” was one part of the government’s broader civics education program to help all Australians answer questions they may have around the proposed change to the Constitution.
In parallel, the Museum of Australian Democracy and Constitution Education Fund Australia is set to deliver a grassroots civics program focusing on general information about the Constitution and referendum processes in the coming months.
The minister said the information program would give Australians everything they need to make an informed decision at the referendum, and it would reach audiences of every background.
But there are concerns about dwindling support for the voice, with a recent poll showing voters for the ‘yes’ campaign dropping into the low-50s.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said the government had jeopardised unity by rushing a constitutionally-enshrined representative body instead of focusing on recognition.
“Constitutional recognition and reconciliation, if that was the target question, we’d have a 95 per cent ‘yes’,” she told Sky News on Sunday.
“Rushing to referendum … will actually end up dividing our country irrespective of the end result rather than uniting it.”
Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said it would be better if the government went back to the drawing board rather than risk the referendum failing.
His comments came after a rift in the ‘Yes’ campaign where a suggestion by former social justice commissioner Mick Gooda that the referendum question removes the provision mentioning executive government if it meant bipartisan support was met with scorn by Noel Pearson.
The Aboriginal activist branded Mr Gooda a “bedwetter” and said it didn’t represent the view of the Indigenous community.
Senator Birmingham said there was a view that the government’s approach was increasing the risk associated with the referendum.
He said it would be a better outcome if the government went back to the drawing board and took on the advice from people like Mr Gooda so that “people could take a fresh look at this again and consider the way it’s handled”.