Australian referendum on indigenous recognition fails as voters say 'No' to constitutional change

14 October 2023, 12:24 | Updated: 14 October 2023, 12:26

Yes voters were left distraught when their campaign conceded the referendum
Yes voters were left distraught when their campaign conceded the referendum. Picture: Getty

By Chay Quinn

An Australian referendum on whether indigenous people should have an advisory committee to parliament - and thus be recognised in their constitution - has failed.

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Advocates for constitutional change in Australia said they were devastated by the defeat of a referendum that would have created an advocacy committee to offer advice to Parliament on policies that affect indigenous people.

Early counting showed that 57% of voters opposed the Indigenous Voice.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation projections found New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia had rejected the amendment.

The Voice needed majorities in each of at least four of the six states as well as a national majority for the referendum to pass.

Voice advocate Tanya Hosch, who spent a decade developing the model, told ABC: “On a personal level, I feel devastated.

“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.”

Another advocate, Tom Mayo, said he was also “devastated” and blamed unfair attacks on the plan.

“We have seen a disgusting ‘no’ campaign. A campaign that has been dishonest, that has lied to the Australian people,” Mr Mayo said.

Opinion polls in recent months indicated a strong majority of Australians opposed the proposal. Earlier in the year, a majority had supported it, before the no campaign gathered intensity.

Voice advocates had hoped that listening to indigenous views would lead to more effective delivery of government services and better outcomes for Indigenous lives.

Accounting for only 3.8% of the population, indigenous Australians die on average eight years younger than the wider population, have a suicide rate twice that of the national average and suffer from diseases in the remote Outback that have been eradicated from other wealthy countries.

The Voice would have been the first referendum passed since 1977 and the first ever to pass without the bipartisan support of the major political parties.