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‘Two future Australias’: Indigenous voice referendum date to be announced as campaign kicks off

The Indigenous voice referendum date will be announced at a large community rally in Adelaide’s outer suburbs on Wednesday, kickstarting a campaign to change Australia’s constitution for the first time in nearly half a century.

Albanese will join South Australia’s premier, Peter Malinauskas, in Elizabeth, in Adelaide’s north, to confirm the referendum date. If held on 14 October, as widely anticipated, it would kickstart a 45-day campaign.

The yes campaign sees its path to victory through young people and women in the cities and the suburbs and is banking on a massive grassroots push to reverse current polling showing the no vote ahead in key areas.

“Seven years ago when the Uluru statement was issued, no one would have known out of that process, a place of despair, we’d be on the cusp of going to a referendum with a positive vision for the future,” said Prof Megan Davis, co-chair of the Uluru Dialogue and an architect of the voice.

“That’s the choice the referendum provides: either an endorsement of now, which is not great for our people, or it’s a new Australia.”

“This is a campaign of two future Australias,” she said.

“One [future Australia] is backward-looking, negative, pessimistic, has a very deep racial undertone, bullying – and the other is a vision for Australia that was developed by First Nations people, that opens its arms up, is positive and forward-looking and has huge numbers of Gen Z and millennials who say they want their future to be inclusive.”

The referendum requires a double majority to pass, meaning a majority of voters nationally must approve it, as well as at least four of the country’s six states.

Federal and campaign sources broadly believe New South Wales and Victoria will vote yes, while Queensland will vote no. Western Australia is currently likely to oppose the referendum.

Tasmania and South Australia are expected to be where the referendum is decided.

Due to the double majority, both sides are seeking to avoid losing by big margins in any state, meaning anti-voice forces are campaigning vigorously in western Sydney and the yes side has pushed strongly in south-east Queensland.

Indigenous voice to parliament: what is it and how would it work? – video explainer

Yes sources said young people and women were among those more likely to support the change, but internal research shows up to 40% of voters are still persuadable or yet to decide.

“We’ve been furiously working behind the scenes, as well in public, getting ready for this moment,” Thomas Mayo, a Yes23 spokesperson, told Guardian Australia’s Full Story podcast.

Both the yes and no campaigns have narrowed their social media advertising to focus on SA, WA and Tasmania, although yes sources said key campaigners like Noel Pearson, Mayo, Rachel Perkins and Yes23’s director, Dean Parkin, would continue travelling widely.

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Pearson on Tuesday called Adelaide “the epicentre of this campaign”, saying he was “anxious and excited” about the announcement.

“South Australia is absolutely critical to this referendum, as it always has been to any progressive reform in this country,” he said.

The date announcement will unleash potentially the largest political campaign Australia has ever seen, according to yes sources, with a wave of traditional and online advertisements to land within days.

Pearson said he hadn’t given up on Queensland, claiming there was “a very different feeling” in recent weeks.

“The mood is shifting. The wind is getting behind us, even in places like Queensland … the effort is going to be all over the place,” he said.

While the prime minister and senior colleagues will play important roles at key stages of the campaign, senior sources said Labor intended to avoid dominating every day of the campaign.

On Wednesday, popular government figures like Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten will join cross-party supporters like the former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, and the Liberal MP Bridget Archer to campaign in public events nationwide.

Senior members like the health minister, Mark Butler, the education minister, Jason Clare, and the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, will be prominent faces during the campaign, highlighting how the voice would benefit their portfolios.

“We are expecting hundreds of people from across the community to join us. It is a snapshot of what this entire campaign is about – mobilising people to have conversations in the suburbs,” a senior government source said of Wednesday’s launch.

“This is the strongest asset and a significant advantage that Yes23 has – people power with more than 25,000 volunteers signed up across the country having conversations.”

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