Getting clued up before big vote

AFTER receiving a bunch of emails from constituents showing a broad ignorance of Australia’s Constitution, Melville councillor Tomas Fitzgerald has set out to skill them up before they vote later this year on whether to add an Indigenous Voice.

Cr Fitzgerald, who teaches legal theory at Notre Dame university in Fremantle, has been hosting talks on the Constitution’s detail and history, the latest last Wednesday at the AH Bracks library.

“Given how important any referendum that changes the Constitution is, I thought it would be helpful to try to give people a better sense of the history of the document, how it works and why it’s set up the way it is, partly to address some of the misconceptions I was hearing,” Cr Fitzgerald said.

• Melville councillor Tomas Fitzgerald said the emails he was getting showed that few people really knew what was in Australia’s constitution, including a section that talks about states banning certain “races” from voting in elections.

Uluru Statement

In November last year, Cr Fitzgerald spoke on a motion calling for Melville council to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the primer for the recent push for a Voice. The motion was watered down to remove that support and reiterate the council’s desire to “hear and support” Indigenous people.

But his support’s got the City of Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association up in arms, and it issued a statement saying he shouldn’t be hosting the Constitutional sessions under his deputy mayoral banner because his advice might be biased.

“The council should not be seen to be taking a position on this matter,” the MRRA statement said.

But Cr Fitzgerald says he’s steering clear of taking sides.

“My hope is that whichever way people vote, it’s a genuine and considered decision and that that outcome reflects the kind of country they want,” he said.

In March, the local government peak body WALGA’s state council also backed away from taking a position on any Constitutional change, but  did support “respectful conversations” about the issue.

Meanwhile Fremantle council has been burning through the $35,000 it allocated to support the Yes vote.

The funds have towards the “Disclosure” panel discussion, Kitchen Table conversations, and volunteer training. 

A new historical installation, set to debut in September, aims to present a comprehensive timeline of reconciliation, addressing pre- and post-colonial settlements and the reconciliation journey.


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