Yes23 CAMPAIGN LAUNCH, on Kaurna Country, ADELAIDE

History is calling! The time is NOW!

Yes23 CAMPAIGN LAUNCH on Kaurna Country, ADELAIDE 21-23 Feb 2023 by Ros Bradley, Angie Finn, Robyn Hutchinson

Over 300 activists from all corners and sectors of Australia gathered at Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute for the launch of the Voice to Parliament Yes 23 campaign. Organised by From the Heart, the constant buzz was inspiring – from mob to community groups and from unions to corporates. Together, our networking knew no bounds! The launch opened on Tuesday evening with high-energy networking over drinks, and setting the context for three days of creativity!

On Wednesday morning, Uncle Moogy welcomed us to Kaurna country with a profound message of solidarity. Then, Phil Saunders graciously welcomed us to Tandanya, where the spirit of YES was ever-present. Dean Parkin, Director of From the Heart, set the context for the two days, and the wonderful facilitating team led us all on the Action Planning journey. The simple message remains:

Constitutional Recognition in the form of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is FAIR, PRACTICAL SIMPLE, UNIFYING! Yes!

A range of inspiring speakers shared stories of the Voice movement so far. This set the context for the next day and a half for the intensive workshop labs, representing the various sectors, including unions, mob, community – Non Government organisations, faith and sporting groups, corporates etc. 

Presentations were diverse, starting with Mary Crooks from the Victorian Women’s Trust. Mary’s organisation Together, Yes offers their tried and tested Kitchen table conversation model on a national scale to help people participate in the upcoming referendum. Mary provided a rundown on how the model works. First, people register to become a conversation host. The host gathers up to 10 people – friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and holds two conversations one in May & another in June 2023 to listen and learn together.

Hosts will be provided with materials and support to use in the group conversations. Following the two sessions, all group participants are encouraged to engage in as many individual conversations as possible within their networks up until polling day.

We encourage you to look at their website, register to be a host, and invite others to register too. The more people who step into the role of Conversation Host, the greater the civic participation and the larger the social movement.

Just imagine it – the whole nation engaged in a respectful conversation where people can ‘engage in an honest reckoning of the harm and injustice of our colonial past; Australia’s history of constitutional indifference; and how a Voice to parliament can make a difference.’        

Another interesting presentation was from Peter Lewis from The Essential Poll, who conducts ‘temperature checks’ of the population. He showed us the polling stats in the campaign’s favour as on 6 February 2023: 63% of the population support the Voice. Dean Parkin followed indicating that we can’t afford to rest on our laurels and need to keep positive, despite the many naysayers during the summer months. ‘We need to amplify our voices.’ Yes!

A surprising and inspiring presentation was from Louise Ellis from ANZ bank. The ANZ declared their support behind the Voice, and last year all 28,000 staff stopped work for 30 minutes during the day to watch the Digital Learning program by From the Heart. Very impressive!

Larissa Baldwin, Get Up! and Kristy Albion from the Australian Progress Association, shared a strong message of solidarity and challenged us all in ‘passing the message stick. Their goal (and ours) is to build widespread public support for transformational change with First Nations people.

Following the presentations, we dived into our LAB In small groups, followed by plenaries; we developed the basis of action plans for each state and the many networks and organisations to increase the groundswell of support in communities nationwide. These included using social media, organising action days, bridge marches, talking to a new person every day about the Voice, holding ‘kitchen table’ conversations and even composing a campaign song! It was incredibly energizing meeting so many allies supporting a Yes vote in the upcoming 2023 Referendum. 

The ‘YES’ merchandise, including signage, T-shirts, badges and stickers, was made available to us present. The messaging is simple: Yes to recognition in the Constitution, Yes to a Voice in Parliament and, Yes to voting at the Referendum (and Yes to respect). Yes23 website

On Thursday afternoon, the event concluded when more than 500 people came together to help launch the YES 23 grassroots campaign. Local elder, Uncle Moogy, led a beautiful smoking ceremony on one of the main streets of Adelaide, connecting us all, followed by song, dance and rousing speeches by Dean Parkin, Dale Agius (South Australia’s Commissioner for First Nations Voice), Rachel Perkins and Tandanya CEO, Phil Saunders.

To cap off an amazing three days, Dean Parkin announced that the Paul Ramsey Foundation had donated $5m towards the campaign.

We all left on a high – History is calling!

Ros Bradley, Robyn Hutchinson and Angie Finn, represented the Voice from the Heart Alliance, Women’s Reconciliation Network, the Northern Sydney Alliance for the Uluru Statement, Lane Cove Residents for Reconciliation and Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater.

Members of Voice from the Heart Alliance