In a show of solidarity, two of Australia's prominent football codes have thrown their support behind a proposal to constitutionally recognize the country's Indigenous population through a referendum. Recent opinion polls indicate a decline in public support for the government-backed plan. Rugby Australia (RA), in a full-page statement published in The Sydney Morning Herald, emphasized the significance of the proposed referendum and stressed that it should not be overlooked. They asserted that true national unity can only be achieved by actively addressing the existing divisions among the population. The statement further highlighted the long-overdue need for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution.
The Australian Football League (AFL), the premier league for Australian Rules football, also released a separate statement announcing their endorsement. While encouraging individuals to form their own opinions, the AFL expressed pride in supporting the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution through the establishment of a Voice to Parliament. The referendum, likely to take place between October and December, will ask Australians to vote on whether they want to amend the constitution to include a committee known as the "Voice to Parliament." This committee would provide non-binding advice to lawmakers on matters affecting Indigenous people's lives.
With Aboriginal people comprising approximately 3.2% of the country's population of 26 million, their marginalization by British colonial rulers has persisted, and they are not explicitly mentioned in the 122-year-old constitution. The endorsement from these influential sports organizations in sports-enthusiastic Australia holds significant weight for proponents of the constitutional change. However, recent polling by The Sydney Morning Herald revealed a decrease in support for the Indigenous voice, dropping from 58% earlier this year to 53%.
Rugby Australia and the AFL now join the National Rugby League (NRL), various AFL clubs, and other governing bodies in soccer (Football Australia), tennis (Tennis Australia), and the Olympics (Australian Olympic Committee) in formally declaring their support for Indigenous recognition through a referendum. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has invested considerable political capital in the success of the referendum, has actively sought the support of prominent sports bodies and athletes. Australia boasts renowned Indigenous athletes such as NBA star Patty Mills, former Olympic sprinter Cathy Freeman, and former women's tennis world number one Ash Barty.
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