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Warren Mundine and Jacinta Nampijinpa Price respond to comments about them at Orange Voice forum

August 27, 2023


UPDATED August 28, 2023



By Peter Holmes


Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price - a leading campaigner against constitutional change in the upcoming Voice referendum - and fellow Indigenous campaigner Nyunggai Warren Mundine have responded to criticism levelled at them at a Voice forum in Orange.


At a Voice forum at the Canobolas Hotel on Wednesday night, Orange deputy mayor Gerald Power described Nampijinpa Price and Mundine as “puppets” being used in a “political game”.

Power, the first Indigenous person to be elected to Orange City Council, was answering a question asked by an audience member about Nampijinpa Price - a conservative politician - and Mundine, a former politician who is now a mining executive.



“Oh Warren!” said Power to much laughter in the audience. “Brother! Yindyamarra [the Wiradjuri philosophy of dignity and respect]. It is quite interesting.”



“In 2008,” Power added, “he was our voice under Kevin Rudd. Then he jumped ship and went with prime minister Abbott, then he was our voice again.



Orange deputy mayor Gerald Power before the forum. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“I did hear a speech that he made in 2017 stating ‘I agree with constitutional recognition, can’t be moved, can’t be voted out’ - everything that this Uluru Statement says now. And then what did my brother do? Change his mind and say ‘I disagree with you, I’m going for a No’.”

[Editor's Note: This claim about Mundine is regularly repeated by the Yes campaign. Mundine says he supported Indigenous Australians being recognised in the Australian Constitution, but not an enshrined Voice to Parliament.


The truth is a little muddier.


Australian Associated Press (AAP) fact-checked the claim about Mundine.



“The quote attributed to Mr Mundine in the post reads: ‘We need to have a voice, we need to be heard, we need to be seen. But we also need guarantees that we just don’t have bodies set up and then they’re destroyed by governments at government’s will. We actually have to have bodies that are fully recognised and have the force of law and constitutional law behind them.”



But AAP went on to add: “However, the full version of his speech reveals important context.

In an earlier part, Mr Mundine explains how he is critical towards the idea of a national voice but is ‘slowly shifting in support of it’.


"However, he states he hasn’t ‘been won over by it’ and adds caveats, including that any voice ‘needs to come from the ground’ and local bodies need to be consolidated before a national voice is created.”



“The next passage includes the truncated quote used in many social media posts: ‘The natural flow to me is that we will end up with a national body which will have the voice of what Indigenous people are saying on the ground … So I’m presenting that argument – we need – it’s a continuation of Noel (Pearson)‘s argument, that we need to have a Voice, we need to be heard, we need to be seen.]


(L-R): David Pocock, Gerald Power, Alisha Agland, Kate Hook, Jamie Newman, Andrew Gee and MC Pam Ryan. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Deputy mayor Gerald Power told the forum last Wednesday he felt sorry for Nampijinpa Price and Mundine.


“You see this is a political game here. Once the [referendum] is finished, where will they be? They’re puppets, do the jig, do the jig, yep, yep.”

Power told the audience he had shared meals with two of Mundine’s relatives and that “both conversations were supporting Yes”. [They said] ‘We don’t know what he’s doing’.”





In answering the same question about Nampijinpa Price and Mundine, Jamie Newman, CEO of Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS), said the “lateral violence” of Aboriginal people attacking Aboriginal people was being used by No campaigners.


“If you want to get confusion you get Aboriginal people to speak against Aboriginal people,” Newman said.

“We cry racism when whitefellas talk about us, but we don’t talk about lateral violence where it’s Aboriginal people attacking Aboriginal people. Lateral violence is rife. I think it’s worse than racism.



SBS interviews an audience member before the forum. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“Whenever they want to influence and confuse and dictate, put up somebody who is black and let him speak against that. That's what causes the confusion.”



Senator Nampijinpa Price told The Orange News Examiner: “I’m no stranger to Aboriginal men trying to bully, intimidate and insult me into silence. It’s never worked before, and it won’t work now.


“From the start I have called for a respectful debate, but Yes campaigners can’t help but push hatred and division.


“They have called me every name in the book, whether it’s from Noel Pearson, Marcus Stewart or any number of Yes Campaigners, because they can’t fathom that I might just disagree with them.


(L-R): Senator Nampijinpa Price, Sam Farraway MLC, Nationals federal leader David Littleproud and Paula Townsend at Bowen Technology Centre. Supplied.

“If you want to talk about Aboriginal people attacking Aboriginal people, take a look at how the Yes advocates treat each other and their opponents, it’s divisive and wrong. I find these latest comments lacking in intelligent thought. They accuse me of lateral violence while calling me a puppet doing a jig."



She said she opposed the Voice to Parliament “because I want to see a country united, the Yes campaign don’t seem to want anything but division”.


In a phone interview with The Orange News Examiner, Warren Mundine urged all parties - whether in favour of the referendum or against - to pull back on "vitriolic personal attacks".

He said prime minister Anthony Albanese and opposition leader Peter Dutton needed to meet and talk as a united front to the people of Australia about keeping discussions respectful over coming weeks.


On social media the standard of commentary has often left a lot to be desired, with some branding all No voters as racists, and Yes voters being branded as woke wankers. Comments made about Indigenous Australians in these sewers are not so much shocking - we know racist pigs exist among us - as they are depressing. It's a troll's paradise, on both sides.


At a conference for conservatives in Sydney recently, a comedian playing a character made jokes about Indigenous people were utterly inappropriate. And the aggressive stance taken by some of the more hardcore advocates about those saying they will vote No has done nothing to woo those whose views aren't yet baked in, only disenfranchise them.


Around 150 people attended the Q&A event, which had been organised by local supporters of the Voice.

The panel was Power, Newman, senator David Pocock, Indigenous youth leader Alisha Agland, community advocate Kate Hook and Calare MP Andrew Gee.





In encouraging people to support a Yes vote, Power spoke about his decades working around NSW as a public servant.



“Wilcannia, Menindee, Goodooga, Broken Hill - and the only outcome as a public servant that I’ve ever got is by sitting in the gutter with the people and saying ‘Hey Auntie, Uncle, how can I help you?’.


The audience at the Voice forum. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“Once they gave me the idea I went back, wrote the briefing notes, go through treasury to say we need this and this. ‘Well why do you need this money Mr Power?’ ‘Well, it’s simply to get the best outcomes.’ And guess what? We got good outcomes.”


He spoke about public servants telling him what would be good for “Gerald - but did they ask me? Did I have any input into that? No. ‘Well it will be good for you, I assure you it will be good for you.’


“Eight hundred thousand of us, billions of dollars of your tax money and my tax money going to my people, and we’ve already heard that the outcomes of First Nations are not [improving], so there must be something wrong. We need to get back to talking to our people.”


Asked by the moderator Pam Ryan about how the Voice to Parliament could positively influence health outcomes for Indigenous people, OAMS CEO Jamie Newman said that for decades there had been too much focus on “outputs” and not enough on “outcomes”.


“What we need is outcomes. As Australians we should expect outcomes. What happened to a fair go in this country? That’s what we’re asking for. We’ve heard policy and we’ve heard strategy and we’ve seen plans and proposals.




“Nineteen years of Closing the Gap [a government report that publishes data about the lives of Indigenous people compared to the rest of the population] and we’re only on target for two of the seven [categories].


“A reconciliation action plan is nothing if you don't practise it. Let's look at Covid. [OAMS was] one of the drivers of the change around Covid with the uptake of screening and getting vaccinations done.”

Asked why she thought some Indigenous Australians were against the Voice, Alisha Agland said “it's a pretty unfair standard to expect 100 percent of people in a group to agree to something”.



“In terms of First Nations people that are on the fence or unsure, we know some feel the Voice doesn't go far enough, we know some First Nations people don't believe government intervention is the way to go, [and] some want a treaty first," she said.


Senator David Pocock interviewed by the ABC as Pocock's adviser looks on. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"The most important thing to remember is that overwhelmingly First Nations people support the Voice to Parliament and it’s the way forward.”



Writing in The Guardian in April, researcher Rebecca Huntley said “all the available research shows that a strong majority of First Nations people support the change”, but that this was not the perception in the wider community.


“The actual number bounces around depending on sample size and timing, but tends to land somewhere between the 80% in an Ipsos poll of 300 First Nations people in January of this year (this poll was commissioned by 89 Degrees East, where I am research director) and the 83% in a YouGov poll of 738 First Nations people conducted this month – the largest and most representative sample I know of to date,” Huntley wrote.




She described the tools to measure sentiment in Indigenous communities as “blunt”.

“But even if we consider any larger than usual margins of error, available research shows that support is high, higher than in the non-Indigenous community.”


Huntley said YouGov research showed “that only 40% of non-Indigenous Australians believed a majority of First Nations people support the voice. There is a yawning gap between what First Nations Australians say and what non-Indigenous Australians believe”.



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