Indigenous voice backers left ‘ashamed’ as Australian voters back ‘no’ in historic referendum

Indigenous voice backers left ‘ashamed’ as Australian voters back ‘no’ in historic referendum

Related video: Australian PM confident Indigenous people back having their Parliament 'Voice'

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Australia has voted to reject a proposal for the state constitution to be updated to recognise its First Peoples population, backing ‘no’ in a referendum on whether to establish a body known as the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice”.

If the vote had passed, the group would have been able to “make representations” to the country’s parliament and executive government “on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

While the official ‘yes’ campaign Yes23 argued a vote for the voice “makes a better future possible for all of us”, the ‘no’ campaign organisation Australians for Unity claimed the voice would “divide Australians by race and completely change our democracy”.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese backed the ‘yes’ campaign in the referendum, arguing that “kindness costs nothing”.

When polling closed on Saturday, the ‘no’ vote dominated early counting in all but one state. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that three leading advocates backing the constitutional change have conceded defeat.

Tanya Hosch, an advocate who spent a decade working on the voice model, told the Australian Broadcasting Corportation (ABC) that she felt “devasted” on a “personal level” by the result.

“There’s going to be a lot of pain and hurt and dismay and we’re going to need to take a moment to absorb that message and what it says,” she said.

Fellow Australians have also taken to X (formerly Twitter) to say they are “ashamed” and “gutted” to see the ‘no’ vote take the win:

In an address issued after the result, Mr Albanese stressed to Australians that the outcome “does not define us” and “will not divide us”.

“We are not ‘yes’ voters, or ‘no’ voters – we are all Australians.

“A great nation like ours can and must do better for the First Australians,” he said.

Linda Burney, the minister for Indigenous Australians, added it is "not the end of reconciliation", while opposition leader Peter Dutton said the coalition "wants to see Indigenous disadvantage addressed", but that it disagrees "on the Voice being the solution".

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