International News

Divisive Constitutional Changes Are Rejected In Major ‘No’ Vote In Australian Indigenous Referendum

Noah Ahmed

The Australian people took to the polls on Saturday 14th October, voting to reject a proposal to recognise indigenous people’s “voice” in the constitution.

Those who supported ‘Yes’ wanted greater political rights for Aboriginal communities.

‘No’ winning by a 60/40 majority

They wanted to target inequalities. It was the first referendum in Australia for twenty-four years, since a vote on cutting ties with the British Monarchy, and becoming a Republic.

An Australian referendum has never succeeded without the support of both the major parties, and the results reflected this with ‘No’ winning by a 60/40 majority .

The proposal for the “Voice” was led by the Labour Prime Minister, Anothy Albanese. This loss will be a huge blow to his government, but he stood firm stating: “We must seek a new way forward with the same optimism”.

‘No’ said […] it would breach the principal of constitutional equality

But with all six states in Australia voting ‘No’, the way forward seems more and more difficult to reach.

‘No’ campaigners said that the vote would divide the country on race, and that it would breach the principal of constitutional equality.

There were also concerns about how the “Voice” would be implemented, such as what changes would be needed to promote the “voice”, questions which critics said were not answered by ‘Yes’ campaigners.

Despite the loss, many Australian commentators and politicians say something needs to be done. Aboriginal people have for decades faced disadvantages when expressing their political ideas, as they only make up a small percentage of the population.

‘Yes’ campaigners argued […] (it) would improve the position of the most socio-economically deprived group in Australia

Many argue they are entitled to a louder voice, having inhabited Australia for 50,000 years.

‘Yes’ campaigners argued giving them a “Voice” in policy decisions would improve the position of the most socio-economically deprived group in Australia.

Accusations from ‘Yes’ supporters about the ‘No’ campaign have been increasing since the referendum result. Leading ‘Yes’ campaigner Thomas Mayo said in an interview with ABC Australia: “We have seen a disgusting ‘No’ campaign that has been dishonest, that has lied to the Australian people”.

Using the slogan “don’t know vote ‘No'”

The accusations come after the ‘No’ campaign claimed that voting ‘Yes’ was constitutionally risky and legally suspect, using the slogan “don’t know vote ‘No’”.

This led to seventy-one university law academics writing a letter “to the Australian people” saying that a vote ‘Yes’ was not constitutionally risky and was legal.

Noah Ahmed

Featured image courtesy of Photoholgic via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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