Regional Voice push intensifies ahead of first votes

The 'yes' and 'no' campaigns will travel across the country in a bid to secure referendum votes.

The 'yes' and 'no' campaigns will travel across the country in a bid to secure referendum votes. Photo: AAP

On tree-lined land in Wurundjeri and Wathaurong country, locals came together and wiped away tears as John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ soundtracked their hope for change.

The campaign for a ‘yes’ vote in Australia’s regions has intensified as the historic referendum fast approaches, with voting in remote areas to start on Monday.

A community information session at Djirra at Melton, about 50km west of Melbourne, on Thursday attracted a host of Indigenous leaders who spoke with a sense of urgency about the “momentous” opportunity the referendum represents.

The speakers included Olympian and former senator Nova Peris; Aboriginal author, historian and activist Jackie Huggins; Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation chief executive Jill Gallagher; and, longtime Aboriginal corrections worker Shaun Braybrook.

They tried to wrap their strength and resilience around the audience in the face of adversity.

“When I represented Australia, I represented the whole of this country,” Peris said.

“I just didn’t represent Aboriginal people. I represented every white person and every multi-cultured person proudly and with dignity and with grace.

“Come October 15, if we are not seen, it is a sad indictment of this country,” she said.

“The world is watching.”

Early voting centres will open on October 2 and 3.

The ‘no’ campaign made no public appearances on Thursday following its last major event in Adelaide earlier this week, where hundreds gathered in the key battleground state.

The Federal Court on Wednesday dismissed an application challenging the referendum voting formality process.

United Australia Party Senator Ralph Babet and the party’s chairman, mining magnate Clive Palmer, went to the court seeking to have ballot papers marked with a cross or ‘X’ counted as a vote against the proposed alteration to the constitution.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s barrister Stephen Free SC contended a tick was “of a fundamentally different character” to a cross.

“To respond with a tick is unmistakably clear as signalling an intention to approve,” he said.

In dismissing the application, Justice Steven Rares said a cross could indicate agreement, disapproval or an unwillingness to answer the question at all, while a tick was not similarly ambiguous, either indicating approval or an affirmative response.

The AEC said in a statement on Wednesday it would follow the law.

“For voters at the referendum, it remains simple – to ensure you cast a formal vote, follow the voting instructions by writing either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on your ballot paper,” the commission said.

Djirra provides family violence services to women in Victoria.

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