Australia on Saturday decisively rejected a proposal to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution, in a major setback to the country’s efforts for reconciliation with its First Peoples.
Australians had to vote “Yes” or “No” in the referendum, the first in almost a quarter of a century, on the question of whether to alter the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people through the creation of an Indigenous advisory body, the “Voice to Parliament”.
Nationwide, with almost 70% of the vote counted, the “No” vote led to “Yes” 60% to 40%. Australian broadcaster ABC and other TV networks have projected that a majority of voters in all six of Australia’s states would vote against altering the 122-year-old constitution.
A successful referendum requires at least four of the six to vote in favour, along with a national majority.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged it was not the outcome he had hoped for but said the country would have to seek a new way forward for reconciliation.
The Voice to Parliament was proposed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a 2017 document crafted by Indigenous leaders that set out a roadmap for reconciliation with wider Australia.
Australia’s Indigenous citizens, who make up 3.8% of the country’s 26 million population, have inhabited the land for about 60,000 years but are not mentioned in the constitution and are, by most socio-economic measures, the most disadvantaged people in the country.