Australia: Indigenous Leaders Devastated Over Rejection
The Aboriginal people of Australia have expressed dismay after majority Australians rejected the “Voice Referendum” to recognize them in the country’s constitution. This was Australia’s 45th referendum to give recognition to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and establish a board of Indigenous people to provide advice to the federal government.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had been involved in the campaign for the referendum, and was expecting a majority “yes”. But polling showed a drop in support – majority in South Australia, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania are giving a “no”.
Analysts highlighted that a “no” was adamant as opinion polls showed support for no outweighed “yes”. Julian Leeser, a Liberal MP, said this was a vote about the Constitution, and not a vote about Indigenous Australian. “It is an undeniable fact that you are our land’s first peoples and I honor you this night.”
Indigenous People Need a Voice
Thomas Mayo, one of the leading Yes campaigners, expressed disappointment. He said their proposal was the right one. “We need a Voice, we need that structural change and we got it right at Uluru. We have seen a disgusting No campaign. A campaign that has been dishonest, that has lied to the Australian people, and I’m sure that will come out in the analysis.”
However, a leading No campaigner Lidia Thorpe said she was not surprised by the referendum outcome. She highlighted that Australia needed a treaty with First Nations people before the constitution was changed.
Tanya Hosch, a Yes campaigner, said Australia is now left with the status quo, in which Indigenous Australians faced unacceptable levels of disadvantage. But she believes Australians are committed to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. “One thing that is not changed is that we’re the first peoples of this country.”
Done Nothing Wrong to the Indigenous
Warren Mundine, a No Campaign leader, said argued they have done nothing wrong to the Indigenous people. “We have been clear on our messaging and our honesty in this whole campaign, we always had faith in the Australian people, we always believed in Australian people.” He said whatever the final result, they have to pull together as a nation, pull together as people and work together.
The Indigenous people make up about 3.8 percent of Australia’s 26 million people, and have inhabited the continent for about 60,000 years. But they are the most disadvantaged people of the country.