After a week of contemplative silence following the defeat of the Indigenous voice referendum, Indigenous groups have emerged to express their sorrow and disillusionment. Some have characterized the referendum’s rejection as “an unparalleled act of racism by white Australia.”
The proposed Indigenous voice to parliament faced an overwhelming rejection by Australians on October 14, with the highest approval recorded in the Australian Capital Territory at 61%, followed by Victoria at 45%. Queensland recorded the lowest affirmative vote at 31%.
In a pledge to observe a period of silence for a week following the announcement of the referendum results, Indigenous groups have now spoken out, denouncing the “dog whistling and misinformation” employed by certain opponents in the ‘no’ campaign.
The Central Land Council (CLC), one of four land councils in the Northern Territory, remarked that the referendum’s outcome revealed a profound disconnect within Australia, describing the nation as a “country that does not know itself.” The CLC acknowledged the disappointment but also recognized the courage of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for facilitating the referendum.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (Antar) expressed deep sadness over the results, reiterating their unwavering commitment to the key objectives of the 2017 Uluru statement from the heart: voice, treaty, and truth. They noted that the missed opportunity to move beyond Australia’s colonial history was a cause for lament.
Antar also emphasized that the ‘no’ outcome would not deter their ongoing efforts for First Nations rights and justice. They underscored that the Indigenous voice was just one avenue to pursue these goals.
Antar acknowledged that many First Nations people were grappling with feelings of displacement and disconnection within their own country. The group reported that for some, the events of October 14 represented an “unparalleled act of racism by white Australia.” However, they also highlighted the stories of resilience and resistance among Indigenous leaders who remained undeterred.
The role of “dog whistling” and misinformation in influencing the outcome of the referendum has also been noted by these Indigenous groups.
According to reports, there was some division among ‘yes’ campaigners regarding the wording of an official joint statement. The draft version placed blame on the federal Coalition, asserting that the referendum was “doomed from the time the National Party and then the Liberal Party declared their opposition, leading to a loss of bipartisan support.” The statement had gone so far as to declare that the majority of Australians had committed a shameful act by rejecting the proposal.
Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister, has not disclosed the government’s next steps but has committed to engage with Indigenous groups and listen to their concerns.