Aboriginal flag
A political row is intensifying over the voting process for the voice referendum. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Leaders step up efforts as Indigenous voice vote fails

Dominic Giannini October 15, 2023

Indigenous Australians are being told they will be supported as all sides of politics recommit to reducing disadvantage after the voice referendum was lost. 

Every state turned down the proposal to put a non-binding Indigenous advisory body in the constitution, with the ACT the only jurisdiction to back the ‘yes’ case.

Health Minister Mark Butler said Labor was fighting history to get a referendum up without the support of the opposition, which had never been done before. 

The nation needed to find a way forward as Indigenous communities deal with health issues that don’t exist in major cities, such as rheumatic heart disease.

“What our job is now …  is to find ways of listening to Aboriginal communities about how we can deal with these conditions before they emerge,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Old Parliament House in Canberra
 Senator Lidia Thorpe says the lost referendum is a win for the black sovereign movement. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash said the government’s proposal went too far.

Australians had said ‘no’ to dividing the nation “on the basis of race and ancestry” and now needed to come together, she said.

“Australia has gone through an extremely bruising time,” she told AAP.

“The one thing we can all agree on is that we all want to see better outcomes for our most marginalised in society.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton recommitted support to a royal commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities and an audit into spending on Indigenous programs to address disadvantage. 

Independent Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe called the result a win for the black sovereign movement and said a treaty was the next step.

“This outcome presents us with a blank canvas, a chance to reset the power dynamics, take a seat at a new table together and talk about sovereignty, land rights and self-determination.”

Senator Michaelia Cash
 Senator Michaelia Cash says Australia has gone through an extremely bruising time. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

But Pat Farmer who ran thousands of kilometres across the nation in support of the voice said his thoughts were with the Indigenous people in remote communities he met doing it tough “and saw this as a ray of hope”.

Clinton Schultz from the Black Dog Institute said Indigenous Australians were likely to be feeling rejected.

It was important this was processed appropriately to avoid it leading to “rejection trauma”, he said.

“To just have the entire national spotlight on you … can be quite challenging and overwhelming,” he told ABC TV.

 “So there has been a lot of increase in psychological distress that’s been experienced.”

Metropolitan areas voted ‘yes’ and the opposition to the voice increased in regional and rural areas. 

But the higher ‘yes’ vote in inner city “teal” seats which the coalition lost at the large federal election could prove disastrous for the Liberals trying to form government.

Election analyst Ben Raue said the Liberal Party had been “losing its grip on inner metro seats for a while” and needed to claw it back to reclaim power, 

“Teal” independent MP Monique Ryan accused Mr Dutton of spreading lies and disinformation about the voice. 

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the government took responsibility for the referendum and outcome but the vote shouldn’t be taken as one against reconciliation.

He hoped there was now “an increased appetite to put in place programs to close the gap”.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt called for the government to recommit to implementing the Uluru statement from the heart in full, which includes truth telling and treaty.

“This will help us lay the foundation for lasting justice and reconciliation in this country,” he said. 

Mr Raue said the outcome was unlikely to have an impact on the leaders’ electoral standing with Mr Albanese’s popularity not tied to the decreasing ‘yes’ vote in news polls, 

There were also examples of governments badly losing referendums and being re-elected.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905