Wayne Jansson

Wayne Jansson

Chief reporter & photographer at No Fibs
Wayne Jansson is an Australian citizen journalist and photographer. He covered the seat of Indi during the 2013 federal election and since has covered the growth of the community independent movement.
Wayne Jansson

WHEN INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS offered the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the nation, they invited all Australians to walk with them.

That invitation wasn’t a rhetorical flourish or something to do once this weekend as a display of solidarity – it was a call to action.

Local Indigenous elder, Aunty Patsy Bollard campaigning in Benalla. Photo: Wayne Jansson
Local Indigenous elder, Aunty Patsy Bollard campaigning in Benalla. Photo: Wayne Jansson

A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament requires a referendum and indigenous Australians knew they’d never be able to successfully campaign for constitutional change alone – they don’t have enough people.

The Yes23 campaign is designed to support many local community campaigns and is currently powered by 261 groups with over 35,000 volunteers around Australia.

Impressive. But, it’s not enough.

The ‘Yes’ campaign is up against the Liberal campaign group, Advance, that normally targets ‘Voices for’ community independents.

Advance was formed in 2018 (as Advance Australia) and was billed as a conservative GetUp.

At the 2019 election, the Liberal campaign group seemed mostly focussed on saving Tony Abbott in Warringah from a community insurgency that’d had enough of their ultra-conservative MP. The community won.

In Indi, Helen Haines made history by becoming the first independent to succeed another independent in the Federal Parliament – the community won.

At the 2022 election, Advance attempted to stop community independent campaigns from wiping out Liberal Party heartlands.

The Liberals lost Kooyong, Goldstein, Curtin, Mackellar, Wentworth and North Sydney. The Indi and Warringah independents both increased their margins.

By any measure the 2022 Advance election campaign was a massive failure – a lot of communities won.

I’ve always considered Advance an Astroturf operation – they have a media (including digital media) strategy, a mailbox regime, mobile and static billboards, call centres and stunts, and it’s all synchronised with the Liberal campaign narrative of the day.

They deal in lies and distortions, fear and smear, and in their current ‘No’ campaign, Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine are the main Canberra narrators.

When Dai Le strongly distanced herself from the ‘Voices for’ candidates during the last election campaign, it upset many people supporting those campaigns.

Dai Le’s a community independent, but she’s not the same as the ‘Voices for’ independents – she’s a trusted local political identity with a long history of participation.

‘Voices for’ candidates are backed by community driven campaigns seeking change – the netball dad, a neighbour, aunty, son, the nurse who looked after mum and the bloke who buys a coffee every morning.

Successful ‘Voices for’ campaigns have deep and strong ties into the communities they’re trying to win over.

Advance’s lies, distortions, smears and fears fail – none of it resembles the community members campaigning on local streets.

For years I’ve figured Liberal Party and Advance tactics probably gain more traction in electorates without ‘Voices for’ candidates, places where a community rising isn’t on the streets as the Liberal and Advance rhetoric is their only reference point for those distant campaigns.

So, when Dai Le strongly distanced herself from ‘Voices for’ candidates during the last election campaign, I wasn’t surprised.

I figured the Liberal and Advance campaign was probably causing Dai Le’s, Fowler campaign a far bigger headache than the community candidates it was aimed at.

The Yes23 campaign, because it is their only path to success (especially now bipartisanship’s been trashed), have built campaign infrastructure to support hundreds of local community campaigns.

Community led campaigns are all about volunteers and reaching a critical mass to make those deep and trusted community connections.

The 2013 Indi community campaign won, by the skin of their teeth, with around 650 volunteers and in 2022 that number ballooned to somewhere around 2000.

But, in 2022 another community in another geographically huge electorate, Wannon, came close to winning with just 236 volunteers.

With 35,000+ volunteers, the ‘Yes’ campaign averages out at around 230 volunteers per electorate, however some communities have much larger numbers of volunteers.

Yes 23 campaign volunteer at Wangaratta. Photo: Wayne Jansson
Yes 23 campaign volunteer at Wangaratta. Photo: Wayne Jansson

This means many communities don’t have enough ‘Yes’ campaigners to create the community connections required to succeed.

In addition, in communities where the ‘Yes’ campaigns are weakest, Advance’s codswallop will likely get traction.

Indigenous Australians have built a campaign designed to support communities who chose to walk with them – now they’re waiting for the rest of us to step up.

Participation is the antidote for Advance’s Astroturf.