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Top tips for phone conversations about Voice

Alright Gen Z, we know you hate talking on the phone. But we also know you can put your discomfort on hold in the service of solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander comrades!

Having a phone conversation with someone you think might be undecided on Voice or potentially voting No will have an enormous impact at this stage in the campaign. Not only will you potentially secure their vote, but you’ll indirectly influence people in their circle too!

So let’s get into it: how do you have a persuasive conversation about the Voice to Parliament referendum?

1.Say Hi

Whether you’re calling from a list or ringing an old mate, it is customary to break the ice by asking how they are going, what’s new, or reminding them of the last time you spoke.

Do NOT ask them if this is a good time to chat – if it’s not, they’ll tell you.

2.Explain the reason for your call

Something like:
“Aunty, I know I’ve never called you before, but I have a really important thing to speak to you about. This year we’re all going to vote in a referendum on recognizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a Voice to Parliament – and I’d like to talk to you about it.”

3.Ask questions

Have you heard about the referendum? Did you have any initial thoughts about it? Do you have any questions about the process?

At this point, you’re going to learn a lot more about where your friend or family member is at. Depending on whether they’re supportive, unsure, or negative, you’ll need to change your approach.


A. Supportive:

If the person you’re speaking to says something supportive about the Voice, your job is to reinforce their commitment to vote YES… and then ask them to support the campaign!

A1. Probe

Start by probing their reasons for support. “Awesome to hear! Why do you think you’re going to vote Yes?” “That’s great! Why do you support Voice?”

A2. Share

You’re then going to (probably) agree with their reasoning, and add your own story. “100%, I agree. For me, it just makes sense that we accept this invitation to share in Indigenous culture, and move forward together!”

A3. Commitment

Sharing your own reasons will help solidify that person’s support – but you’re going to go one step further. You’re going to ask:

“So I can count on you to Vote Yes in the referendum?”

If they’re not quite there yet, pivot to an Unsure conversation. But if they commit to voting Yes – congratulations!

A4. Step up!

If their support is really strong, you can challenge them to step up like you have – by volunteering their time, putting up a poster, or donating to the campaign. “That’s fantastic – I’m so glad you support the campaign. Would you be able to support other volunteers like me by joining an action or chipping in to fund the flyers I’m handing out? I can send you the link after this call”


B. Undecided:

If the person you speak to says something like "No, I haven't given it much thought", then your job is to de-mystify what the Voice is, and frame the choice on our terms.


B1. Empathise & frame the choice

Start by empathizing – it’s understandable they haven’t prioritized thinking about the referendum, everybody leads busy lives!

Then explain:

Basically, we’re all being asked to vote on recognizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution, through the establishment of something called a “Voice to Parliament”. The Voice to parliament is an advisory body that can provide advice to Parliament on issues that impact Aboriginal communities, so that those communities can help shape the policies that will work best in real life situations. That’s it.

It’s a simple, practical step in the right direction.

B2. Share

Next, you’ll share why you have decided to support the Voice to Parliament. (It helps if you’ve thought about this in advance!). Try to dig right down to the very core values of your support. It’s probably not got anything to do with the constitution, or politicians. Something like “because I want Australia to move towards healing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”, “because it’s important to me that all Australians – Indigenous or non-Indigenous – have a say over the issues that affect us”, or “why wouldn’t we want to benefit from the wisdom of the world’s oldest living culture?”.

B3. Ask for commitment

Once you’ve shared your perspective, ask them whether they feel the same. “Do you think that sounds fair?”, “What are your thoughts about that?”.

If they agree with you, then hopefully you can ask for their commitment to vote YES! Otherwise, read on.

C. Negative:

If you speak to someone who expresses some reservations, concerns or questions about the Voice, don’t despair. Recall that there are powerful interests spreading misinformation and fear in the community. Your job is to find a shared value you can agree on – and show them that their values better align with a Yes vote.

C1. Question

Start by asking more questions about their concerns. Even if you disagree with the conclusions they’ve drawn, you’ll probably find some shared experience. Some common reasons for fears about Voice are:

  • Disenchantment with politics and government generally – they feel that ordinary people like us aren’t getting a fair go
  • Skepticism about the system, and a desire to see practical solutions for Aboriginal people
  • A desire for equality – perhaps with a sense that disadvantage and division would disappear if we just stopped talking about it!
  • Fear of sounding dumb or racist, and a feeling that they’re being judged for not knowing enough about politics

C2. Values

You should empathise with their fears (if not exactly their logic) and try to connect their values to a positive expression. For example:

“We all want to see practical solutions for Aboriginal communities”

“Like me, you think ordinary people – whether black or white – deserve a fair go. We all deserve good jobs, healthcare, and strong community services”

“You’re passionate about equality and everyone getting a say – no matter where they live or how long they’ve been here”

“Like you, I’m not a lawyer or constitutional expert, but I know everyone should get a say in our country. We are all capable of contributing – no matter our background!”

C3. Villain

Once you’ve established shared values, your job is to pull back the curtain on the villains influencing their No vote. This might be:

  • Politicians seeking to create division for their own ends
  • Media barons trying to sell newspapers with confected controversy
  • Bad-faith actors (like Gina Rinehart) seeking to deprive Aboriginal people of share in Australia’s wealth that we should all enjoy

NB: If your audience mentions being influenced by the few Aboriginal people who are advocating a No vote, that’s great! There is no need to characterize those actors as villains. Simply explain that the vast majority (83%) of Aboriginal people – particularly those who don’t already have a platform – have asked us to vote Yes.

C4. Vision

After explaining the motives of the villain who is spreading division and fear, pivot to the positive vision of “YES” advocates.

“By voting YES together in huge numbers, we’ll show the politicians and big companies that they can’t afford to ignore ANY of our communities – remote or urban, black or white”.

“Rather than being divided against Aboriginal communities, I’m joining in solidarity with my fellow Australians in their fight for the things we should all enjoy – good jobs, working infrastructure, and a say over our collective future”.

You’re unlikely to get a commitment to a changed opinion on the spot. But you can ask if they’d like you to send them any links to more information about Voice so they can do some more thinking.

Most importantly, thank them for their time and congratulate them on being willing to have a tough conversation with you – because it’s these conversations that will make Australia better!