News / Referendum

No show in Brunswick from the No campaign

Supporters of the Voice predict large Yes majority in Wills electorate
• Where to vote on Saturday

Northern Metropolitan MLC Sheena Watt  — the only Indigenous MP currently in the Victorian Parliament — was in a buoyant mood at the Brunswick pre-poll centre on Friday.

Mark Phillips
Updated: Friday, October 13, 2023

THE No campaign has gone missing in action in Brunswick in the days leading up to the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

No campaigners have had no presence at pre-polling in Brunswick since early election voting opened on October 2, according to the Yes campaign.

The polling booth at the Brunswick Masonic Centre in Davies Street has been swamped with volunteers for Yes, and Yes campaign materials dominate the footpath outside. By contrast, the No campaign seems non-existent.

Rebecca McCann, one of the co-ordinators of the Wills For Yes campaign, said the absence of any presence from the opposition to the Voice suggested there would be a very low No vote in Brunswick.

“They just haven’t been present,” she said.

“I do not think for a second that on referendum day we will get away with it, I think they will mobilise … but I am getting the same thing when I’m making phone calls: people say to me ‘Why am I not hearing from No?’

“If I was to take a stab at it, it’s because there’s not so many normal grounded, community-based individuals prepared to put in the hours and hours of their unpaid time to volunteer for No because its’s mostly nonsense and it’s hard for people to support that.”

The federal Member for Wills, Peter Khalil, has also been struck by the absence of the No campaign in Brunswick and some other parts of his electorate.

Fair Australia, the organisation that runs the No campaign, did not respond to a request to comment.

Get more stories like this delivered to your inbox

Continuing the trend from last year’s federal and state elections, record numbers of people have already voted in advance of referendum day.

By the close of voting on Thursday, 13,790 people had already cast their verdict on the referendum at the Brunswick pre-poll centre.

Across the federal electorate of Wills, 24,745 pre-poll votes had been cast and 9905 postal votes have been returned. Put together, these represent 31.2% of the 111,191 voters enrolled in Wills.

National polling shows Yes trailing No by considerable margins in most states, including Victoria, but Brunswick and Wills are tipped to buck that trend.

Mr Khalil – who like his Labor colleagues supports the Voice – said he had a “really good feeling” following a visit to the Brunswick pre-poll centre on Tuesday with Northern Territory Senator and Yanyuwa woman Malarndirri McCarthy.

“Obviously in my electorate I hope it’s a Yes vote, and I have a good feeling about the pre-poll but there’s also a lot of polling and discussion about whether this gets up or not, so the old adage applies that the only poll that matters is the one on referendum day,” he said.

“There’s a lot of undecided voters and I think there’s a good chance it will get up [nationally].”

On Friday, Northern Metropolitan MLC Sheena Watt — currently the only Indigenous MP in the Victorian Parliament — was in a buoyant mood after visiting the Brunswick pre-poll centre.

“Right across the northern suburbs, the inner north, outer north, it doesn’t matter, there is strong support for a Yes vote,” she said. “The folks here know what’s on the line and they know that the lives and futures of Aboriginal people deserve better. And so this community are voting Yes overwhelmingly.

“I’m really, really proud of that.”

“I think people are feeling that there’s a moment that they want to be a part of, and there’s a history that they want to help [make] right.”
– Northern Metropolitan MLC Sheena Watt

McCann said this confidence about the result in Brunswick and Wills was shared by campaign volunteers.

“I asked the volunteers today what their estimate will be and they were like 54% Yes in Wills but I think it will be higher than that,” she said.

“I really just think we’re going to have an overwhelming Yes vote in Wills. I do feel there’s been an uptick in awareness and momentum which started longer than a week ago [when pre-polling opened]. It feels like there is an incredible building of momentum and energy

“This referendum has not been decided and it will not be until the end of Saturday. It’s up for grabs.”

This optimism is partly borne out by the demographics in Wills, where 43.7% of voters are aged under 40 and considered more likely to vote Yes, compared to 38.4% aged over 50. However, the electorate does also have a high proportion of voters aged over 70, who make up 12.9% of the electorate.

Nationally, the Yes campaign faces an uphill battle because only 34.6% of the voters are aged under 40 and 48.7% are aged over 50, while 17.4% are 70 or older.

Khalil said when he spoke to undecided voters, he stressed the Voice to Parliament was a modest change, but one that he believed would generate better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“There’s been a lot of disinformation about the campaign and that’s made people fearful because the waters have been muddied.

“This is a very clear proposal around an advisory committee to Parliament and the executive government that would advise on better outcomes to make Indigenous lives better.

“Nothing is being taken away from you. It will improve Indigenous lives and your life with better policy outcomes and a better bang for your dollar on healthcare, education and social policy and employment and that’s good for all of us.”

There will be 35 polling booths in Wills on referendum day, including 11 in Brunswick.

Wills For Yes has 1095 volunteers on its database and while the priority is to ensure the pre-poll centres and polling booths are well-staffed, the campaign is also encouraging supporters to volunteer in electorates with a smaller Yes infrastructure.

Read more:

People are allowed to disagree, but on October 14 I’ll be voting Yes

Brunswick resident Margaret Ludowyk was inspired by the Uluru Statement From the Heart to volunteer for the Yes campaign

Where to vote on October 14

Polling places in or near Brunswick

St Ambrose Church Hall
3 Dawson St, Brunswick

St Margaret Mary’s Parish Hall
68 Donald St, Brunswick

Brunswick North Primary School
144 Pearson St, Brunswick West

Temple Park Senior Citizens Centre
24 Gray St, Brunswick

Merri-bek Primary School
157-163 Moreland Rd, Coburg

Brunswick East Primary School
195A Stewart St, Brunswick East

Brunswick South West Primary School
5A South Daly St, Brunswick West

St Joseph’s School Hall
185 Hope St, Brunswick West

Brunswick South Primary School
56 Brunswick Rd, Brunswick East

Holy Trinity Serbian Church
1 Noel St, Brunswick East

Brunswick North West Primary School
3 Culloden St, Brunswick West

Source: Victorian Electoral Commission