While it is poorly performing economies like Greece that have become synonymous with sovereign debt crises in recent times, other more deeply indebted economies remain exempt from such representations. This paper builds on an argument made elsewhere that sovereign debt crises are implicated in the expansion of colonial power through austerity, in both their overt and covert manifestations. While the 2015 Greek referendum in a climate of austerity attempted to cover over the imperializing will of the European Union through the referendum device, in Australia the referendum campaign seeking ‘recognition’ of Aboriginal people in the Constitution effaces the foundational debts of dispossession that structure both economy and sovereignty. While the referendums in both crises are invoked to resolve different legal, economic and cultural issues, they are indissociably connected in that they operate to legitimize the expansion of global colonial power. Referendums more generally are becoming increasingly visible as governance devices and yet their cultural-legal and racial meanings are yet to be tracked. I begin this task by bringing together a range of heterogeneous texts and literatures. By analysing and interconnecting these seemingly disparate texts, I argue that the Greek and Australian referendums are both techniques of colonial power.