Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has described British colonisation as Australia's stroke of luck, while expressing his scepticism on the forthcoming Voice to Parliament referendum.
Howard's comments were made in light of the historic vote, set to take place later this year, which could modify Australia's constitution to give more power to its First Nations peoples regarding laws and policies impacting them.
However, the discussion surrounding the vote has elicited divisive responses with many pushing the change unwilling to participate in public debate.
The ex-Prime Minister, in his interview with The Australian newspaper, deemed colonisation as an "inevitable" occurrence, adding:
"In my view, the best thing that happened to this country was being colonised by the British. They weren't flawless, but they were unquestionably more successful and beneficent colonisers than other Europeans."
Howard cast doubts on the Voice to Parliament initiative's chances of success, foreseeing a "new cockpit of conflict" over Indigenous aid strategies. He criticised the initiative's advocates for failing to convince the Australian public.
The Voice vote, the first Australian referendum since 1999, was announced by current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in early 2023. Supporters assert that it will lead to improved outcomes for Australia's First Nations peoples, who currently endure lower life expectancy, and disproportionately worse health and education outcomes.
Critics, however, dismiss the Voice as a largely symbolic gesture incapable of instigating reform, while also undermining existing governmental structures.
Recent surveys show a significant dip in public support for the Voice.
Howard, a potent conservative figure, has backed the No campaign, despite his controversial record on Indigenous affairs, including weakening First Nations land rights, suspending Australia's racial discrimination act, and refusing to apologise to the Stolen Generations.
If the Voice referendum is passed, it will mark the first amendment to the nation's constitution in over 46 years.