Big Issues

Why Do I Care What Kamahl Is Voting?

Kamahl voice to parliament vote no the project hamish macdonald

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Over the past fortnight we’ve been forced to watch the trainwreck that is hearing what musician Kamahl is voting in the Voice to Parliament referendum.

Originally voting ‘No’, then ‘Yes’, then live on-air changing back to ‘No’, it’s been exhausting figuring out where he stands. But perhaps what’s even more exhausting than Kamahl’s flip-flopping is getting my head around why on earth his opinion matters, anyway.

Who Is Kamahl?

For those of you who don’t know who Kamahl is — I genuinely had never heard of him before he decided to randomly talk about Indigenous people — he is an entertainer and singer who rose to prominence in Australia in the late ’60s. If we’re going off Spotify streams, his biggest track is ‘The Elephant Song’, which was released back in 1975. Safe to say, it’s been a while since he’s enjoyed significant air time. 

In fact, Kamahl didn’t really reenter the mainstream until he posted that he was “voting NO because I don’t understand it” on X earlier this month; using the most boomer meme of all time to do so. (If you don’t get the connection, John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ is currently being used by the Yes23 campaign.

10 days after his post got picked up on X, Kamahl announced on ABC News Breakfast that he had changed his mind on voting ‘No’ in the referendum, and said that his post was “an accident”. (I get it, I’m always accidentally posting memes conflating the Voice to Parliament with apartheid.) Kamahl’s change came after Indigenous comedian Dane Simpson and constitutional lawyer Eddie Synot reached out to talk about what the Voice is and what it stands to achieve for Indigenous people. He said this conversation changed his perspective, and now he was going to be voting ‘Yes’. After the interview, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese then said at a ‘Yes’ event in Ryde, Sydney that the “Kamahl-mentum” would help pick up ‘Yes’ voters before October 14. Cringe, but moving on.

That “Kamahl-mentum” was short-lived. The following day (last night) Kamahl appeared on The Project and flipped his stance once again. Yep, he was back as a firm believer of the ‘No’ vote. “I am well and truly committed to saying ‘No’,” he said. Kamahl also rattled off ‘No’ campaign talking points, saying Indigenous people “already have a voice” and that a Voice to Parliament will divide the nation by race. He was fact-checked on a claim he made during the interview that the government already spends “$40 billion” on Indigenous programs a year, which is false. He later admitted he made a mistake on the figure, but was still voting ‘No’. So yeah, the whole interview was a doozy.

Why Spotlight Kamahl’s Uninformed Take(s) On The Voice To Parliament? 

It brings me to my point though, why was Kamahl given so much air time in which to share his uninformed views on the Voice to Parliament in the first place? Why are we paying this much attention to what a non-Indigenous man is saying on a subject that he himself has admitted he’s been ‘uninformed’ on? Why are we giving him space to peddle misinformation on live TV? 

Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what Kamahl is voting. I give a fuck what the government is doing to protect Indigenous kids; to help end Blak deaths in custody; to address climate change; to give us our land back; to address our lifespan issues; to stop overpolicing of Indigenous people; and to actually listen to us. But somehow, I’m meant to care about what Kamahl is voting in the referendum? Yeah, no thanks. 

Let Indigenous People Speak On The Voice to Parliament

I completely sympathise with people changing their minds about this referendum. I’ve changed my mind several times. But Kamahl has wasted vital airtime, which could have been given to an Indigenous person speaking about the Voice. We’re only a few weeks away from the referendum, and we should be amplifying Indigenous people’s perspectives and hearing what they have to say, not wasting valuable airtime fact-checking an indecisive musician. It continues to baffle me that Australian media don’t interview more Indigenous people (the ones who are willing to talk, please don’t go about asking every Indigenous person what they are voting and call it a day) to get their perspective. 

If the Voice is truly about listening to Indigenous people, why aren’t we doing that? At the end of the day, the Voice to Parliament affects us the most, not Kamahl, not Tony Abbott, but us First Nations peoples. But now I’m expected to care about some random man talking about my people when this entire time we could have listened to grassroots Indigenous activists sharing what they think? Awesome. I love it here. 

I shouldn’t be surprised: Australian media love to wheel out older generations of Australians who say the most outlandish things, but Kamahl’s public flip-flop makes an entire mockery of the very serious referendum we’re about to have. I’m sick and tired of non-Indigenous people putting their (uninformed) two cents in where we don’t need it. If you want to be a true ally, stop standing in front of Indigenous people who, across the political spectrum, deserve to have our voices heard. 

Don’t even get me started on why Shaquille O’Neal, of all people, was brought into this.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image credit: The Project