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How the Yes23 Campaign Inspired a New Wave of Activists

Australia’s latest Referendum ended in heartbreak for the 40% of the population who voted in favour of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a Voice to Parliament, particularly for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had been working towards it for years. The ‘Yes23’ campaign was hard-fought by our allies across the progressive community for the better part of 2023, and while it’s been important to rest and regroup after losing the campaign, we believe it’s important to focus on highlighting the positive impact the Yes23 campaign had across the country.

We had the pleasure of partnering with the Yes23 Campaign in the lead-up to the Referendum, to help build their campaign website and provide them with our volunteer management software. Working closely with the campaign team and their volunteers, we witnessed how quickly local groups formed across the country, and started recruiting and organising their own communications and activities to best suit their respective areas and demographics. Within a matter of weeks, there were 276 local groups established across the country, with 55,067 active and engaged volunteers working tirelessly to campaign for the Yes vote.

A new wave of activists

This particular campaign was unique in that it inspired a whole new cohort of passionate citizens to become volunteer leaders. People were able to use the Yes23 website to search for local campaign groups via the map functionality pictured below, and if one didn’t already exist, they could easily start their own local group by completing a simple online form.

Once their new local groups were set up online, these volunteer leaders were given access to our volunteer management tool, SupporterBase, which they used to engage with and organise their fellow supporters. Using this one streamlined platform, they could send SMS and email blasts, manage call lists, publish events to the Yes23 website, and review their group analytics.

For so many of these volunteer leaders it was the first time in their lives that they had participated in any form of activism. Jessica Holz, a professional Union Organiser who spent her maternity leave campaigning for the Yes vote in her local area of Port Kembla (Dharawal Country), was surprised by the new wave of activists she saw emerge.

“Something that I witnessed was people getting involved that have never been involved in any sort of campaign before. It inspired people to door knock, who at the start said they would never door knock because ‘it wasn’t their thing’.”

“People handed out flyers to the community en masse, held stalls and had very difficult conversations, all in the name of creating change for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. The campaign enabled communities like Port Kembla to meet each other, come together and make life-long friends.”

What they achieved

This army of dedicated volunteers worked hard on the ground every single day in communities across the country. They spent six months leading up to referendum day talking to people, holding information sessions, handing out informative pamphlets at shopping centres, hosting door-knocking and calling events, and organising community events to promote awareness. Here’s the high-level breakdown of the actions they achieved using SupporterBase:

  • 4,316 phone calls made
  • 312 hours of phone calls
  • 4,652 SMS blasts sent
  • 49,877 SMS responses received
  • 5,050 email blasts sent
  • 30,771 email responses received
  • 11,352 events organised

We’re proud to have been able to play a small part in supporting the campaign by providing the technology, training, and support the core campaign team needed to scale their movement. Yes23 Field Organiser, Rob Baillieu, said, “I’ve worked with the SupporterBase team on 5 separate campaigns at a State, Federal and National level and found them to have provided the best support I’ve ever had from an online service before.”

What’s next

Although it certainly wasn’t the outcome we wanted, it’s exciting to see these newly established local groups across the country asking “What’s next!?”. With strong networks and processes now firmly in place, it stands to reason that the movement will continue to build momentum, and their voices will be heard more loudly in the future. This new wave of activists will be more ready than ever before to work together to achieve positive progressive change.

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