Sixty percent of Australian voters rejected constitutional recognition of Indigenous people and the enshrinement of an advisory committee. On 14 October, as polling booths closed, it was clear that the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament would be lost. Every state in the country voted No.
Despite enthusiastic backing — from big business to unions, NGOs to armies of campaign volunteers — this modest proposition made no progress for the rights of First Peoples. The entire experience was devastating for First Nations communities, leaving mob at the grass roots traumatised and divided. Some reluctantly voted Yes to a proposal they saw as utterly inadequate. Others rejected the idea of being incorporated into the Constitution of a capitalist settler state. The very notion that a non-Indigenous majority population would vote on the future of First Nations, who had never ceded sovereignty, was fundamentally flawed. And racists seized this opportunity to peddle their bile, leading to a surge of calls to First Nations crisis support lines, such as 13YARN.
The Freedom Socialist Party argued that there should have been a First Nations vote prior to any referendum. Without this, we could not advocate a vote for Yes or No. We instead used the referendum to explain why self-determination for First Nations people is central. We also took every opportunity we could to amplify sovereign voices.
Escalate the struggle. We made the case that whatever the outcome of the referendum, we would need to keep fighting for First Nations justice. Within this are practical demands to implement the recommendations of both the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bringing Them Home Report in full. We also support the establishment of truth telling and processes to establish treaties. With more than 250 distinct nations, some with as many as seven clans, what’s needed is a process where all First Nations are given opportunities to engage in genuine acts of self-determination to decide their future.
Gamilaroi man Luke Pearson, who founded the media organisation IndigenousX, wrote an open letter to mob about what must follow the referendum. He asserts that, with passionate support for First Nations’ rights coming from both sides, Yes or No is a false binary. It’s crucial to understand, he says, that the Voice was not the end game but simply a means: “The goal of an Indigenous future. Where our sovereignty is recognised and celebrated. Where we can enjoy our rights as Indigenous peoples” is what Pearson believes can unite all advocates of First Nations’ rights.
In our pre-referendum statement we said, “As long as we live in a capitalist society built on the stolen land of First Nations and the stolen labour of workers, First Nations, workers and the poor will continue to be offered meagre schemes sold as the best that capitalism can offer. It’s time to stop settling for second best!” We want the best for First Nations people and for workers and the poor. In building the unity necessary to win what we deserve, there can be no compromise on First Nations’ self-determination.
Read our referendum statement As the referendum approaches amplify sovereign voices and continue the fight for First Nations rights.