Indigenous stars Mitchell, Walker undecided on voice
On the eve of NRL Indigenous Round, South Sydney stars Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker are urging Australians to educate themselves on the proposed voice to parliament, with both men saying they will need to do the same before making their minds up on how to vote.
Last week, the NRL became Australia's first major football code to formally back the campaign to enshrine an Indigenous voice into the Constitution, which will be voted on at a referendum later this year.
Mitchell and Walker are two of the NRL's most recognisable Indigenous players and undertake considerable work with First Nations children, recently travelling to the flood-affected Northern Rivers of NSW to play rugby league games with local youths.
But neither man believes he has educated himself enough to echo the NRL's stance on the voice, which was reiterated by CEO Andrew Abdo at the Indigenous Round launch in Sydney on Tuesday morning.
Between now and the referendum, slated for between October and December, the pair say they will read up on the proposed design of the voice to understand how it would affect Indigenous Australians at ground level.
"For the voice to parliament, for anything to move forward in society as an Aboriginal man or Aboriginal woman, I'm all for it," Mitchell, a Birrbay and Wiradjuri man, said.
"But at the end of the day, we want to make sure we get everything (right) in the learnings and make sure we know what we're doing and how that looks and how that's structured.
"I'm not a yes, I'm not a no, I'm not even a maybe yet. I just want to know more and make sure that my people can have a voice on their own terms and not be spoken for.
"I need to know a bit more about what that looks like for our people."
Yuin and Bundjalung man Walker received the NRL's Ken Stephen Medal last year in recognition of his commitment to the Indigenous community and while he applauded the league for taking a stand, he urged fans to make their own minds up on the voice.
"It's good for the game for taking a stance like that," he said.
"(But) I'm not going to tell you what you need to vote, or what I'm going to vote for. It's up to the individual to do that research on their own and to make up their mind themselves.
"I still need to do my own research."
Indigenous Round comes two weeks after the NRL finalised its investigation into an instance of racial abuse directed at Mitchell during halftime of South Sydney's round-two game against Penrith.
With the police investigation into the matter also closed, Mitchell looked forward donning the Rabbitohs' Indigenous jersey and celebrating his culture when his side hosts Parramatta at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
"(I'm the) proudest black man alive, I reckon," he said.
"The bigger the NRL can get (Indigenous Round) and the more they buy in and allow us to have a voice in it, it's really enjoyable to be a part of.
"I'm very passionate to wear this jersey and I cannot wait to play Friday night."