Australians have rejected a proposal to recognise Aboriginal people in the country’s constitution and establish a body to advise parliament on Indigenous issues.
Saturday’s voice to parliament referendum failed, with the defeat clear shortly after polls closed.
To succeed, the yes campaign – advocating for the voice – needed to secure a double majority, meaning it needed both a majority of the national vote, as well as majorities in four of Australia’s six states.
The defeat will be seen by Indigenous advocates as a blow to what has been a hard fought struggle to progress reconciliation and recognition in modern Australia, with First Nations people continuing to suffer discrimination, poorer health and economic outcomes.
The vote occurred 235 years on from British settlement, 61 years after Aboriginal Australians were granted the right to vote, and 15 years since a landmark prime ministerial apology for harm caused by decades of government policies including the forced removal of children from Indigenous families.
The concept for the advisory body, which would have included Indigenous representatives from each of Australia’s six states and two territories voted in by their local Indigenous electors, was developed and endorsed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in 2017. A majority of Indigenous voters supported the proposal, according to polling.
While such an advisory body could have been created through legislation, the proposal was designed to enshrine its existence in the constitution so it could not be removed by future governments.
The referendum question, to amend Australia’s constitution to recognise the first peoples of Australia by establishing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to parliament, was deliberately vague. The failure of Australia’s previous referendum in 1999 – to become a republic and acknowledge Indigenous ownership – was seen to have failed because it put forward a specific model to voters.
Read more at the Guardian