The founders of online design platform Canva, as well as the Tech Council of Australia and several prominent tech founders and VC investors have thrown their support behind a “Yes” vote for Indigenous recognition in the Constitution at October 14’s national referendum on the issue.
Canva cofounders Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams have penned an Open Letter backing the Yes case and calling on others to follow their lead.
Signatories include Wotif founder Graeme Wood, Blackbird’s Rick Baker, Square Peg’s Paul Bassat and the founders of Dovetail, Athena Home Loans, and environmental impact startup Zero Co.
The move follows Atlassian cofounders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar coming out in favour of the Voice in July, before the referendum date had even been set by the government.
“We want to be clear – we’re not telling people how to vote; that is a personal choice,” the Atlassian duo said at the time.
“But education is vital here – and we want every Atlassian in Australia to have access to information and forums for discussion, so you feel prepared and empowered to make your personal decision.”
Canva’s Cameron Adams said they’d “spent a lot of time listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have overwhelmingly told us that the referendum is one of the best ways we can empower First Nations communities” calling the proposal “a profound step forward” and historic moment
“It’s an opportunity to create a more equitable future for our country and it’s an opportunity we must seize,” Adams said.
“We encourage all Australians to listen with their heart, educate themselves, and vote to move our country forward rather than stay mired in 200 years of inaction.”
Industry lobby group the Tech Council of Australia also backed the Voice with CEO Kate Pounder saying the decision was consistent with the organisation’s commitment to improve diversity in the sector.
“After more than a decade of trying to close the gap, there remains significant inequity in economic and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. While we are making progress in some areas, it’s clear that our current approaches aren’t achieving the scale of change at the pace that’s required,” she said.
“Change will also require greater action by the tech sector to support Indigenous entrepreneurship and tech job opportunities. Tech companies are already taking action, but we know more can be done. We believe that we all have a responsibility to create a fairer and more inclusive future.”
Chair Robyn Denholm, a Blackbird partner who also chairs the board of Elon Musk’s Tesla, said the TCA board came to its position following consultation with the membership.
” The Tech Council recognises that it has an important leadership role to help build support for this reform and to ensure the tech sector is informed with accurate and trusted information ahead of the upcoming referendum,” she said.
“We respect there will be different views on this topic, including by member companies who can take their own positions and as such this is non-binding.”
Not everyone in tech and VC backs the campaign with Queensland investor Steve Baxter, founder of Transition Level Investments and investment syndicate platform TEN13, whose handle includes the hashtag #veteNo and has said on Twitter that he’s supporting the no campaign through conservative lobby group Advance.
Baxter comments daily against the Yes side, criticising their arguments and actions.
“I am part of the No case. I think the voice is constitutional race privilege,” he said on Twitter.
So the Voice will have a right that elected members of parliament do not have. Given we do not know how many people will be elected/appointed, under what terms, what qualifies them (ATSI I assume, what progress !), will all members of the voice get this access that elected…
— Steve Baxter (aka Foxy Loxy #voteno) (@sbxr) September 23, 2023