A survey of numerous homeless First Nations people in Cairns has revealed the lack of publicity the Voice referendum has achieved in more far flung regions of Australia.
The Cairns Post conducted interviews with approximately two dozen homeless Indigenous individuals on the city’s streets and at an encampment at Raintrees Shopping Centre in Manunda to gauge their awareness of this month’s Voice to Parliament referendum.
None of those interviewed were enrolled to vote, and only one had heard of the upcoming referendum.
In some cases, language barriers were a factor, as some of the individuals surveyed spoke multiple languages, and English was not their first language.
An exclusive Newspoll conducted for The Australian showed that 36 per cent of surveyed Australian voters intended to vote Yes, while 56 per cent were planning to vote No in the Voice to Parliament referendum.
A YouGov poll of 738 First Nations people earlier in the year indicated that 73 per cent of Indigenous people supported the Voice concept.
Despite their initial lack of knowledge, when the Voice to Parliament was explained to them during the interviews, a number of the homeless population believed it was a positive initiative.
The Yes23 campaign has been working with service providers to equip staff working with homeless people in Cairns with information about the Voice.
When asked about the key issues they faced and what changes they would make if given the power, homeless First Nations individuals cited problems with the child safety system and emphasised the more pressing issue of adequate housing.
“What voice?” one man said. “I’ve never heard of such thing”.
A number of those interviewed believed they were being asked about the Voice TV show on Channel 7.
“I don’t know of such a thing,” a woman named Sandra Wurrugul told the publication.
“Give us somewhere to live.
“We live on the streets. Give us a home. All homeless people, give us a home.”
A Yes23 spokeswoman said the campaign was working hard to inform disadvantaged communities of the importance of the referendum.
“Yes campaigners have been working with service providers for many months to equip their staff, who work on the front line with homeless people in Cairns, with the information they need to inform the people they support,” the spokeswoman said.
Cairns No campaign leader Peter Fitzgibbon said “if you had of asked non-indigenous homeless people whether they had heard of the Voice they probably wouldn’t have known either — it is a problem”.