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Australian Indigenous leaders demand ‘week of reflection’ following setback in referendum, seeking unity and reconciliation.

Australian Indigenous Leaders Call for Reflection as Constitution Referendum Fails

Australian Indigenous leaders have urged a week of silence and reflection following the resounding rejection of a referendum to recognize the First Peoples in the country’s constitution. Over 60% of Australians voted against the landmark referendum, which proposed amending the constitution to establish an Indigenous advisory body called the “Voice to Parliament.” The outcome is seen as a setback for reconciliation efforts and raises concerns about Australia’s treatment of First Nations people. Unlike countries like Canada and New Zealand, Australia has not yet officially recognized or established a treaty with its First Peoples.

The Call for Reflection

In a statement released on social media platforms, Indigenous leaders expressed their disappointment and called for reflection on the referendum result. They highlighted the bitter irony of a nation that has only existed for 235 years refusing to recognize those who have inhabited the land for over 60,000 years. The leaders emphasized the need for grace, gratitude, and acknowledgment of the historical dispossession experienced by Indigenous communities.

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Political Fallout

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had invested significant political capital in supporting the Voice referendum. However, critics argue that it was his biggest misstep since taking office in May of last year. Opposition leader Peter Dutton labeled the referendum as unnecessary and accused it of dividing the nation. The lack of bipartisan support was a major factor contributing to the referendum’s defeat, as leaders of conservative parties campaigned for a “No” vote. In Australia, no referendum has ever passed without bipartisan backing.

Indigenous Disadvantage and Racism

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, who constitute 3.8% of Australia’s population, face significant socio-economic disadvantages. They are not mentioned in the constitution and experience higher levels of disadvantage compared to other groups. Indigenous leaders stressed the importance of questioning the role of racism and prejudice in influencing the referendum result. They asked every Australian who voted to reflect on this issue.

The failure of the referendum is a setback for Indigenous rights and reconciliation in Australia. It highlights the need for continued efforts to address historical injustices and ensure fair treatment for all First Nations people.

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