Statement by Central Australian Aboriginal Congress on the result of the Referendum to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress is saddened and disappointed that last week’s Referendum to alter the Australian Constitution to recognise First Nations people and establish a First Nations Voice to Parliament has been defeated.
A majority of people voted ’No’ to the Voice in every State and Territory except the ACT. In the Northern Territory only about 40% of voters said ‘Yes’.
However, Aboriginal people overwhelmingly supported the Voice: about 75% of voters in remote areas of the Northern Territory voted ‘Yes’. Some Aboriginal communities recorded ‘Yes’ votes of over 90%.
Congress supported a ‘Yes’ vote because we know from our own experience that when we have a say in the issues and programs that affect us, the outcomes are better.
The Voice would have helped to improve the health of our communities, building upon successes we have already achieved.
It would have made Australia a fairer and more inclusive nation.
However, despite the millions of Australians who agreed with us and voted ‘Yes’, the rejection of the place of First Peoples in the nation’s rulebook is a setback for Aboriginal people and for the nation as a whole.
Our peoples have faced many setbacks before.
But we are still here.
Resilience in the face of adversity is part of who we are.
In the face of this result, Aboriginal people – with the support of our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters – will stand strong and support each other as we have always done.
On behalf of our Board of Directors, Congress would like to thank everyone in Central Australia and across the country who voted ‘Yes’. It means a lot to us that so many non-Indigenous people chose to stand with us on this issue.
We would also like to express our appreciation and respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates who met at Uluru in 2017 and drafted the Uluru Statement from the Heart which first called for the Voice.
Their invitation to the Australian people to recognise our First Nations in the Constitution and give us a Voice was both wise and generous.
Initially that invitation was well-received: a year ago, two-thirds of Australians were in favour of the Voice.
However, the deliberate strategy of deception and misinformation adopted by prominent ‘No’ campaigners turned many previously good-willed people against us.
In doing so, they gave permission for racism to run wild.
Given the result of the Referendum and the conduct of the ‘No’ campaign, there are now serious questions about whether reconciliation is still a viable strategy in Australia.
Nevertheless, one thing remains certain: sooner or later the nation state must deal with the enduring fact of Aboriginal sovereignty.
In the meantime, our struggle for equality, justice and self-determination will continue.