Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe says the referendum campaign has exposed where racism exists in Australia, as she casts her No vote in the Voice referendum.
Heading into the polling booth at the Northern School for Autism in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, Ms Thorpe wore a black T-shirt with “Vote No” written across her chest.
She made a final appeal for Australians to vote against the Voice to parliament, standing in front of a group of Yes23 campaign volunteers wearing “Yes” T-shirts.
“Racism is a cancer. Racism is an illness, it makes people sick,” Ms Thorpe told reporters.
“This referendum has shown where the cancer is in this country, and where we need to heal this country.”
“Where we need to put our efforts as a nation to stamp out this ugly thing called racism.”
The firebrand senator has lead the contingent of indigenous Australians who oppose the Voice to parliament on the grounds that Treaty is the way forward and the Voice will be a “powerless” body.
More than 7000 booths opened across multiple states at 8am on Saturday and will remain available for Australians to cast their vote right until 6pm.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said she had “butterflies” when she voted on Saturday morning, as she implored those yet to vote to choose Yes.
“Today is a truly historic day in this country,” she said.
“There are one in five voters that are still to make up my own mind, and they will vote today, and I want those people to vote yes.”
Australians are heading to the polls to vote on whether to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body, the Voice, in the Constitution.
Around 9 million people will cast their vote after Australians turned out in the millions at early polling booths over the last week, according to the latest Australian Electoral Commission data.
Lidia Thorpe marks the end to fiery Voice campaign
The senator has captured the attention of Australians in the lead up to the October 14 referendum, regularly staring down the barrel of a camera lense as she delivers her unfiltered opinions on the matter.
She took the stage in front of thousands of January 26 protesters raising her first in the air in an impassioned speech detailing the treatment of indigenous people since colonisation.
“This is a war. They are still killing us. They are still killing our babies. What do we have to celebrate in our country?” she said.
Earlier this week, Ms Thorpe shocked many when she accused the Prime Minister of being “weak” for ruling out any future iteration of the Voice to Parliament if the referendum failed.
“That’s just weak. What a weak response. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’ll throw my bat and run away. I don’t want to play no more’ kind of attitude,” she told ABC Radio National on Thursday morning.
Host Patricia Karvelas then asked if she thought the Voice should be legislated, and the senator replied, “Why not? Let’s see how it works.”
However by that afternoon, the senator’s office released a statement to clarify she does not support the Voice but that “truth and treaty are the first steps that must be taken to bring peace to this land”.
The week before, Ms Thorpe was the target of a disturbing video message posted by neo-Nazi extremists including racist death threats.
She accused the Prime Minister and the AFP of refusing to “protect” her from the threats and said the referendum has “nothing but pain and misery”.