Mark Riley: Yes camp’s big mistake, accusations of racism and hatred turn off potential supporters

The campaign to ingrain the principles of the Uluru Statement into the Constitution has shifted from the heart to the gut.

And that is turning voters away.

What began as a polite, emotional request is now too often becoming a confrontational, visceral one at the hands of some of the leading advocates.

An appeal to what Abraham Lincoln described in his inaugural speech as “the better angels of our nature” can now sound more like an aggressive demand on non-Indigenous Australians for atonement.

That demand is valid. There is much to atone for. First Australians have faced constant and shocking discrimination since colonisation.

And that continues today.

Too many of the policies and programs “assisting” Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are well-intentioned in theory but in practice appear paternalistic, wasteful and woefully ill-directed.

But trying to convince mainstream Australians to back the Voice by accusing a significant proportion of them of being racist and hateful won’t work.

Indeed, it is counter-productive.

But that is what co-chair of the Voice design group, Professor Marcia Langton, did at a Yes23 event in Melbourne on July 23.

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