Aunty Cheryl Drayton, a highly regarded Kurnai elder, is dedicated to conveying her strong opposition to the Voice referendum within her local Monash electorate community. Interestingly, she has successfully swayed her local Member of Parliament (MP) to share her perspective.

Aunty Cheryl Drayton, a distinguished Aboriginal elder, has no affiliations with political parties or the No campaign. Nevertheless, she staunchly opposes the Voice, citing doubts about its potential to empower grassroots communities and the lack of specifics about its functioning.

Drayton, who has devoted five decades to Aboriginal affairs, underscores the absence of clarity about the Voice’s implementation, especially regarding the election process for its members. She believes that the government could have allocated resources more effectively to support community aspirations.

Monash MP Russell Broadbent, previously a strong Voice supporter, has changed his stance after Drayton’s influence. Broadbent had co-authored a book advocating for the Voice, arguing that rejecting it would have detrimental effects on the nation.

However, Broadbent now plans to vote against the Voice, explaining his decision to maintain his integrity and genuinely heed Indigenous voices.

As the Yes and No campaigns intensify efforts to sway “soft” and undecided voters ahead of the October 14 referendum, grassroots Indigenous voices like Drayton’s wield significant influence over Australians seeking to align their vote with Indigenous preferences.

The Labor Party and the Yes23 campaign frequently cite polls indicating that over 80% of Indigenous Australians support the referendum and highlight endorsements from local Aboriginal leaders on their social media platforms.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney repeatedly emphasizes that the Voice’s concept originates from Indigenous people themselves, not the government. She also alludes to the consultation process that led to the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, signed by more than 250 Indigenous leaders, advocating for a constitutional Voice.

To challenge this portrayal of consensus, the No campaign, led by Coalition frontbencher Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, seizes on media coverage that highlights dissenting opinions among Indigenous leaders regarding the Voice. They utilize soundbites as shareable content across their social media platforms, asserting that the referendum fosters division.

In the vast western NSW Parkes electorate, Nationals MP Mark Coulton represents one of the largest Aboriginal constituencies in Parliament. The Nationals faced criticism for adopting an official stance against the Voice in late 2022, well before the referendum process was finalized. Coulton chaired the party subcommittee that recommended the No position and cited discussions with local Aboriginal leaders opposing the Voice as shaping his personal stance.

However, Wiradjuri elder and former Dubbo deputy mayor Rod Towney, a signatory of the Uluru Statement From the Heart, disagrees with Coulton’s position. Towney believes that Coulton’s stance does not reflect the majority view of his Aboriginal constituents.

Among those supporting Coulton’s perspective is Peter Gibbs, a Gamillaroi man, National Party member, and community leader from Dubbo. He holds an opposing view to Towney and insists that there is no substantial support for the Voice among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the NSW western region.

“I live and work in the NSW western region and travel extensively, and I can tell you there is not strong support for the Voice among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” said Gibbs. “I know that the ATSIC model was a failure that did not deliver positive outcomes for Indigenous Australians and that the Voice to Parliament would be a similar experiment.”