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Australians will go to the polls to decide whether to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution on October 14.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the date for the country’s first referendum in 24 years in a speech in Adelaide on Wednesday.
The prime minister was joined at the event by Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas
The announcement marks the start of a six-week campaign on the proposed constitutional change.
The referendum will ask Australians to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of Australia by enshrining an advisory body known as the Voice.
For the referendum to succeed, a majority of states need to vote ‘yes’ as well as the majority of Australians.
The referendum will be the first time Australians will vote on whether to change the constitution since the country vetoed the republic in 1999.
South Australia was chosen for the launch as it is viewed as a key battleground state for the poll.
Queensland and Western Australia are widely expected to cast a ‘no’ majority.
It is anticipated NSW and Victoria will swing behind the ‘yes’ campaign.
A survey of 605 South Australians by the think tank the Australia Institute indicates 43 percent back an Indigenous voice to parliament while 39 percent are opposed.
The undecided 18 per cent were evenly split in their leaning, putting ‘yes’ ahead at 52-48.
Separate polling from another think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, has Tasmania, another key swing state, leaning towards ‘no’.
The survey of 1156 voters in the state found 53 percent intended to vote ‘no’, with another 42 percent in support.
Another five per cent said they were undecided.
The launch of the referendum date had seen a flurry of activity by the ‘yes’ campaign, including door knocks and street walks.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and ‘yes’ volunteers to hand out flyers in Sydney.
In Tasmania, Liberal MP Bridget Archer hit the streets to encourage voters to back the proposal, while Greens leader Adam Bandt and NDIS Minister Bill Shorten talked to commuters in Melbourne’s inner north.
Other polls have the ‘yes’ vote lagging across the nation and on a downward trend, but campaigners say the mood on the ground is more hopeful.
History is against the voice succeeding, with just eight of the country’s 44 referendums being successful.
Assistant Indigenous Australians Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said it would still be a challenge for the ‘yes’ vote to succeed.
“We see that this is an uphill battle; we have to keep going right up until the final moments of the referendum ballot,” she told ABC TV.
Former prime minister John Howard warned a successful voice referendum would lead to calls for a treaty.
“We don’t have treaties with bits of ourselves, and it only has to be stated to be realised as a complete absurdity,” he told Sky News.