Illawarra ‘Yes’ campaigners have expressed disappointment and claim the chances of First Nation People achieving constitutional recognition is over, after the proposal to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution was rejected.
The referendum held on Saturday was defeated after the majority of Australians from all six states plus the Northern territory voted against the Voice.
Prominent Illawarra ‘Yes’ campaigner John Corker said “referendums are notoriously difficult to get approved,” and also the ‘No’ campaigners spread misinformation that made it harder for people to understand.
“The main thing is that it was not supported by the opposition and they knew that referendums are hard to get across the line and so for pure political purposes, Peter Dutton decided very late in the place at a time that the referendum process was irreversible, to oppose it for his own political gain,” Mr Corker said.
“Besides that, there was a strong no campaign run of fear and misinformation, which made it difficult I think for a lot of people to properly inform themselves.”
Mr Corker said he does not see the possibility of recognition of First Nations People in the constitution now the Voice has failed.
“Recognition in the Constitution is now off the political agenda and is unlikely to occur in my lifetime again. So as far as the constitutional path goes, I think it’s probably dead, finished,” he said.
“I think the way forward now perhaps is through treaty negotiations, which are already occurring in a number of the States, particularly in Queensland and in Victoria.”
Executive Director of Woolyungah Indigenous Centre Jaymee Beveridge said the result of the referendum was “hard to take”.
“For 235 years, there’s always been the same thing: policy, legislation, some action of government. But when it’s put to the people for the first time and the people say that they don’t want to recognise us, that’s really hard to take,” she said.
“It just means now that pathway to recognition and accelerating, possible progress is now just the long way around again.”
Despite the country’s overall ‘No’ vote, the electorate of Cunningham, which includes Wollongong, voted in favour of the Voice, with nearly 52 percent voting ‘Yes’.
Watch: UOW students rally against racism and in support of the ‘Voice’
Last week before the referendum was held, five University of Wollongong student organisations hosted a rally to show their support for the Voice to Parliament, and against racism. In this video, WUSA President Ela Akyol and other students share their insights on how students were engaging with the ‘Voice’ and urged everyone to vote ‘Yes’.