A drag queen in a sequined outfit featuring the Australian and Aboriginal flag has launched the Yes campaign in England for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
London-based Australian drag queen Karla Bear was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the 100-or-so strong crowd as she belted out a rendition of John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’.
The hit song has become the official anthem of the Yes side.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard also made a surprise appearance at the launch.
Ms Gillard has rarely intervened in domestic politics since she resigned from parliament in 2013 so her speech at the Yes launch in London was seen as significant.
Ms Gillard told the audience, according to The Australian, there had been some progress with more children accessing early education, fewer First Nations young people in detention and more Australian land subject to native title.
But she warned that “progress is slower than we aimed for and in some the gap is getting bigger” in relation to the rates of incarceration and the care of children.
“Why do we fail to meet the targets that we collectively as a nation have set ourselves to change?” she asked the crowd.
“I think that there is one explanation and that is because we haven’t heard the Voice of those who can truly make the biggest difference’’.
She said a Voice to Parliament would mean “together we can sail on a journey that leads to a far more inclusive and reconciled future’’.
Overseas voting will commence on October 2.
High Commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith told The Australian Financial Review he expected huge numbers at Australia House in Central London, the largest polling booth in the UK, in the coming fortnight.
“We are looking to see a big turnout,” he said.
“The referendum is of keen interest to Australians living in the UK, that’s the feedback we have had.”
Locally, Aussies will go to the polls on October 14 to vote in the historic referendum, with polls showing support for the Voice plummeting.
The latest Newspoll published in The Australian this week shows support has dropped to its lowest level at just 36 per cent.
Despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s campaign drive to win undecided voters, opposition to the referendum question has risen a further three points to 56 per cent, with less than three weeks to go before voters will cast their ballot.
According to a senior Yes source, South Australia is seen as the key battleground, as well as western Sydney, Tasmania and Western Australia.
The source said that Queensland and Western Australia are “in trouble” ensuring Tasmania and South Australia will be critical.
“Tassie is looking better than South Australia at this point,” the person said.
“If a third state goes down, the referendum is over.”
Western Australia is understood to be concerning for the Yes side because of controversy over the state’s Indigenous cultural heritage laws as well as being traditionally a conservative state. “We think we can peg it back over the next six weeks now that they have clear air from the cultural heritage laws,” the source said.
Australians will be asked to vote yes or no to the question, “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
It will be the first referendum in Australia since the country voted on becoming a republic in 1999, which was unsuccessful, with 45.13 per cent voting Yes and 54.87 per cent voting No.