The radical No vote to an Indigenous Voice to Parliament found its own voice in Canberra on Saturday, with the revolutionary Black Peoples Union holding a meeting to reject moderation and reconciliation in favour of a “reckoning” with Australia’s past and political foundation.
Keiran Stewart-Assheton, a Wani-Wandi man of the Yuin Nation and national president of the BPU, wants voters to reject the Voice, which would embed an Indigenous-led advisory body into the Constitution, in favour of a revolution to overthrow the liberal foundations of modern Australia.
Speaking before the meeting, Mr Stewart-Assheton said he wanted to replace the current political structure with the governance models that existed in First Nations communities before European settlement, what he terms a “proto-communist” model.
“Our systems governments are very different, the closest I suppose in similarity would be some form of communism or socialism, but ultimately it’s not those either,” he said.
“It’s very much its own thing that hasn’t been properly documented and labelled in English.”
The BPU rejects Australia’s Constitutional order but Mr Stewart-Assheton said the group did not want to return to pre-colonial life.
“We want to retain the structures of our First Nations governance models but apply them to our modern era,” he said.
“So we are not talking about going back to living in the bush and no electricity and no running water, we’re just talking about instead replacing the government model and the economic model that we have for one that’s more community-driven and one that actually caters to the working class as opposed to an elite minority of capitalists.”
His vision includes the appropriation of land and bringing mining companies under state control.
BPU activists will vote No alongside Indigenous campaigners such as Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, but the link to Conservative No sentiment is tactical and ephemeral, with the BPU rejecting any kind of settlement or conformity with mainstream Australian life.
Ngambri woman and BPU vice-president Leah House said the Voice would create an “illusion of progress” while allowing the Australian government to continue its “theft and exploitation” of Indigenous land and resources.
“We already have a voice, you’re just not listening,” she said.
“We hope people will come and hear what we have to say. The Black Peoples Union is firmly opposed to the proposal for a Voice to Parliament.”
Mr Stewart-Assheton said the BPU’s philosophy of a “progressive No” was gaining ground before the October 14 referendum day.
“Our campaign has definitely grown and picked up,” he said.
“When we started only a few months ago we were just this radical little fringe minority group that nobody was really paying much attention to, but we’ve been putting out consistent analysis on the Voice which is something that both the conservative No and the Yes campaigns aren’t doing.
“We’re one of the only people out here actually putting out the facts about what this whole proposition is and its history as opposed to all the other camps that are just relying on people’s hope, faith and fear.”
BPU ideology has a line into parliament through Senator Lydia Thorpe, who also rejects the Voice as a smokescreen for what she sees as the continued repression of Indigenous Australians.
“The Voice is the easy way to fake progress, without actually having to change a thing,” she said in her speech to the National Press Club in August.
“It is a destructive distraction, absolving the government of its continued crimes.”
It is understood a staff member of Senator Thorpe attended the BPU meeting.