THE VOICE Referendum in Australia: ‘Overview’ of the Results

The brutal truth of the referendum result was that Yes campaign couldn’t cut through to a hesitant electorate

Albanese and Burney stand behind podiums in front of the Australian, Indigenous and Torres Strait flags
Albanese’s position put an absolutely unfair pressure on his Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney to lead the debate.()

For Indigenous Australians who supported an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, the comprehensive loss of the 2023 referendum — its defeat in every state as well as nationally — is so much more than just a political loss.

As the Uluru Statement from the Heart said, it was an invitation to the rest of us for a better future: a coherent articulation by First Nations people, one which had been embraced and considered by more of them than anything said previously, of a view to the future which swallowed everything that had happened in the past, and asked for very little.

And we rejected it. The reckoning of why that happened will go on for a long time. Politics will move quickly to shape and blame the reckoning: largely a brawl between white people.

But pause briefly before that happens to consider the pain of that rejection.

A vote against ‘activists’

It took very little time before not only the idea of the Voice was being consigned to history but the people behind it were being diminished by opponents.

The former prime minister Tony Abbott was one of the first to say this was not a vote against Aboriginal people but against “activists” — a line taken up repeatedly by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and his Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.

It is a term designed to not just delegitimise the people — and particularly Indigenous leaders — who advocated for the Voice but to somehow suggest they were outsiders from the start with no clear mandate.

In fact, those people now being dismissed as “activists” — and the work they produced at Uluru — were part of a process that had been set up by the then prime minister and opposition leader in 2015 to “advise the government on steps towards a referendum”.

While the Uluru Statement had a rough path from the start, it produced a new generation of Indigenous leaders who have advocated its cause with dignity and grace, in the face of increasing appalling abuse and racism.


Duration: 15 minutes 49 seconds
Leading No campaigners respond to defeat of Voice referendum.


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3 responses to “THE VOICE Referendum in Australia: ‘Overview’ of the Results

  1. Dash

    The world is a cruel place and the indigenous communities were (are) the worst affected.

  2. A Canary Club reader

    It’s appalling how Peter Dutton is now politicalizing the outcome of the referendum by exploiting it to weaken the government.
    He knocked on the Albanese door like he was f**king a Muscovy Duck feeling a step closer to taking Albanese’s job.

    Australia made the wrong choice. It further entrenches the Anglo-Saxon power structures along with their elites which have ruled this country since 1901. It was never about equality as former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett claimed.

  3. Fair Dinkum

    Tony Abbott is wrong. The outcome of the referendum was a vote against First Nation peoples. If not for the activists, this issue would never have seen the light of day in the first place. There is nothing wrong with activism to raise public consciousness. How else can you raise to consciousness any issue, Tony? As you gloat in your judgments, your assessment will always remain disingenuous, dishonest and despicable. The “No” campaign duped the Australian public by running a scaremongering campaign. It is a day of shame, and it will not go away, but will continue on in new forms.

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