Hundreds Support ‘YES’ At Harbourside Markets

Yes supporters listen respectfully to guest speakers. Photos: Jonny McNEE.

HUNDREDS of Coffs Coast locals came together at the weekend to show their support for an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament as an important way to recognise the place of First Nations people in our country.

The event, Sunday July 9 at the Harbourside Markets, was an opportunity for people to learn more about the referendum and hear from Gumbaynggirr leaders about why the Voice to Parliament is important.

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Market goers had the chance to chat to members of ‘Coffs and Surrounds for Yes’ at two stands, sign up in support, and take away information about the referendum and the Voice to Parliament.

The large crowd listened as Aunty Bea Ballangarry spoke of growing up in Bowraville and her memories of the 1967 referendum.

Although more than 90 percent of Australians voted yes in the 1967 referendum, leading to Aboriginal Australians being counted in the census. Aunty Bea referred to this as “half a job, that’s half a job not finished”, and that establishing a Voice to Parliament was part of rectifying this.

The Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) and Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School (GGFS) recently resolved to support a ‘yes’ vote.

BMNAC chief executive Clark Webb addressed the crowd, sharing the considerations of the corporation’s board and others in reaching this decision.

He noted the diversity of views, and directly addressed the question of whether the Voice interfered with sovereignty.

Mr Webb said, “we are of the opinion that as long as we continue to speak our language, practise our culture, stay connected to country, that’s also asserting our birthright and our self-determination”.

Musician Tareik Hart performed for the crowd, prefacing his performance by paying respects to the traditional owners and noting that as a young person, he felt that the Voice to Parliament was part of the change required and an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.

“Everything has gone superlatively well – the crowd was overwhelmingly supportive,” said event organiser Simone Olsen.

She said the speakers and crowd were very respectful to a couple of disruptive hecklers.

“We are particularly pleased that people had a chance to hear from Gumbaynggirr leaders about why they believe there needs to be a Voice to Parliament,” she said.

“We know those who are still undecided want to hear from Aboriginal people to help them decide, so we hope that Aunty Bea and Clark Webb have helped people understand that this is an important step in justice for Aboriginal people.”

Volunteers reported afterwards that many people asked for information and advice about how to discuss the Voice with friends and family influenced by misinformation in the media and on social media.

The ‘Coffs and Surrounds’ group was established in late May, and already has almost 200 members, with many more signing up at Sunday’s event.

To receive email updates, get involved in campaigning and be alerted of events for ‘Coffs and Surrounds’, go to or

By Andrew VIVIAN

Clarke Webb presents a Gumbaynggirr perspective.

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