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October 12, 2023

Volunteers crucial to referendum campaign

CityMag checked in with the passionate volunteers involved in the Voice to Parliament referendum, and how it changed based on Adelaide locals.

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  • Words and pictures: Helen Karakulak

In the week of pre-polling for the Voice referendum, Nicola Rupp arrives at the Brighton Surf Life Saving Club by 5am to set up her corflutes. Tethering ‘Vote Yes’ messaging to fencing that lines the neighbouring playground has become a new part of her morning routine.


Voice to Parliament Referendum
Saturday, 14 October
Find your nearest polling booth.

Despite her tradie husband’s surprise at seeing her awake before the sun, Nicola says putting them up early and taking them down at the end of the day is necessary.

“The climate at the moment doesn’t allow us to leave our stuff out without worrying that it will be destroyed,” Nicola says.

Putting up corflutes and preventing their demise is just part of her role as the electorate captain in the federal seat of Boothby for Yes.

These signs were probably up before you were


Nicola coordinates 450 volunteers in her area, organising events and grassroots action like door-knocking, letterboxing, wobble boarding and community BBQs to bring volunteers together. She does it all in addition to her nine-to-five day job.

“It’s an early start at the moment because of the pre-polls, but it has been a big time commitment,” Nicola says. “I’d say it’s been like having two full-time jobs to be honest.”

In the three months since she got involved with the campaign, interest from local volunteers has only grown. Nicola says she’s grateful for the support and mindful of what people are able to give.

Some of the most visibly active volunteers for her Yes campaign tend to be uni students and retirees. The people in between volunteer in other ways, like joining phone-calling nights or helping with donating materials, making badges or organising corflutes.

“I’ve tried to find stuff for [volunteers] to do that works within the hours that they have, but it tends to not be so visible,” Nicola says.

“I think a lot of people see this as a young person’s issue… it’s really interesting because some of my most dedicated volunteers and a very large portion of my volunteers are older, and they’re retirees and they care about it.

“Because some of them lived through the ’67 referendum, some of them care about it because they’ve been campaigning on this issue for a really, really long time.”

Nicola with her favourite corflute


One of the younger volunteers in Boothby is Hannah Beadle, pictured right, who says she spends approximately two to three hours each week volunteering.

Hannah says campaigning for the Voice “seeps into your personal life” as it is an ideas campaign and having conversations about the ideas with friends and family occurs naturally.

More than two million Australians have already voted, and pre-polls generally skew more conservative due to the demographics that vote ahead of time.

Hannah Beadle at Brighton pre-pollsHannah Beadle at Brighton pre-polls

Despite this, Hannah remains hopeful for the result, which motivates her to keep handing out flyers to voters at pre-polls.

“I’m optimistic: it’s not decided yet. There’s still time,” Hannah says.

“You don’t necessarily know how your interaction with someone will change how they feel.

“Opposition doesn’t make me feel dismayed, but more convicted to keep pushing.”

At the two pre-polling stations CityMag visited this week, Yes campaigners outnumber those on the No side, but that certainly doesn’t mean their message is going unheard.

Konrad Wraczynski is politically active beyond his shift at the Grenfell Street polling booth this referendum. Prior to 2022, he was the president of North Adelaide Walkerville branch of the Liberal Party for 12 years.

When CityMag speaks to Konrad, it’s between foot traffic approaching him and taking the “how to vote no” flyers he’s handing out. Some people take both the Yes and No flyers to be polite, some take the Yes and ignore him or vice versa, and others won’t take either flyer.

“Funnily enough when it’s a cool day people subconsciously put their hands in their pockets,” Konrad says.

Despite being outnumbered by Yes volunteers and many voters rushing in during their lunch breaks, Konrad is confident the No messaging is being heard.

“I think word of mouth is a marvellous medium – word gets around like lightening,” he says.

“Very few people hang around to talk, one or two might say to one of us that they support what you’re doing, they might say ‘well done, keep it up’, but rarely people stop to talk about the issue.”

Unlike the Yes campaign, which is organised under the banner of Yes23 and has localised campaign strategies organised by community leaders in each electorate, the No campaign is a national effort under Fair Australia.

Fair Australia is the campaign being run by Country Liberal Party Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and if locals query their senators and MPs with interest in campaigning for a No vote, that’s where they’ll be directed.

Margie Galliver at the Brighton pre-pollsMargie Galliver at the Brighton pre-polls

Liberal Senator Kerrynne Liddle says South Australian pre-polls have been staffed by hundreds of volunteers from across the state and that confusion from South Aussies around the Voice is widespread.

“Thousands of South Australians are still confused about the Voice proposal and are turning up at No rallies,” she says.

“For months now I’ve been working with my colleagues Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine to inform the community why we don’t want to be divided because of our race.

“I am heartened by the hundreds of people who have volunteered to help us get the information out to the community and to help with polling booths.”

In Nicola’s electorate of Boothby, Labor MP Louise Miller-Frost says the momentum of volunteers has only increased since the recent Yes rally in the CBD and that the turnout to local events in her electorate has been significant.

“It’s really inspiring actually talking to people who come out to these sorts of events who not only feel passionate about it but passionate enough to get out and talk to other people which can be scary,” she says.

“You never know quite when you’re knocking on someone’s door where that conversation is going to go and an awful lot of them are new people that have never done this before.

“It’s been very positive; I think people are tired now, having been on pre-poll all week I can say I’m tired now… but it’s really important and these are the people that understand this is an important opportunity for our country.”

Nothing boosts community morale like a sausage sizzle, Louise Miller-Frost agrees


Nicola says the turnout of volunteers has been impressive, not just throughout the campaign but for those willing to give up their Saturday on 14 October.

“We’re getting a lot of people asking to be on the roster to stand there and talk to people, hand out how to vote cards, which from what I’ve heard it’s normally really hard to convince people to do that!

“I’m so proud and grateful that I have those people and I think we’ve done a really good job, but I think the most important thing to remember for people is that whether we win or lose, the fight isn’t over.

“When a marginalised community comes to you and asks you for your help, be ready because there will be something else we need to put our weight behind.”

You can vote now in the Voice to Parliament referendum. Find your nearest polling booth on the AEC website. 

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