“Our right to be heard continues to exist both as a democratic imperative for this nation and as our inherent right to self-determination.”
On 14 October 2023, a referendum was passed in the Australian parliament, on whether the indigenous people be recognized and given a ‘Voice’ in parliament. However, about 60% of Australian people voted ‘No’ and the referendum failed. The referendum sought to form a committee of Aboriginal members called, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, to give independent advice to the Parliamentary and Government.
Australian civilians rejected a referendum towards recognition of its Aboriginal population in the constitution and formed a separate body to advise Parliament on policies concerning their issues and rights.
This move has deeply hurt the community of Aboriginal people. The community denoted that through this Australia is falling behind in hearing the voice of one of the important portions of the population and choosing to be less liberal and less democratic on all fronts.
Such move makes Australia way behind in the path towards a full-fledged democratic republic where not a single Australia individual is left behind.
Aboriginal community is angry after the failed referendum and understood somewhere neither the Australian parliament nor its people are ready to accept them fully. Years after the end of colonial rule, these people are still living without their complete rights in their homeland in Australia.
Who are the Aboriginal people in Australia?
Aboriginal people are the indigenous communities of the Australian mainland and some of its islands, but it excludes the ethnically distinct population of the Torres Strait Islands.
Together, the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait people are called the Indigenous population. They were 3.3 – 3.8 percent of the total Australian population in 2021.
People migrated to the continent of Australia more than 65,000 years ago and formed many language-based groups. Aboriginal people have a wide variety of cultural customs and practices, which make them the oldest continuous cultures around the globe.
These people are the most disadvantaged population with fewer rights and voices to be heard. Their health condition which can be easily measured by normal life expectancy is also less than a common Australian man and woman by nearly 8 years. Most of the people still live in poverty.
Children are often malnourished. This harms their growth making them weak and susceptible to diseases. They are left out from basic healthcare facilities and other essential services like education too.
Idea of a referendum for Aboriginal people’s voice
The idea of a referendum for Aboriginal people’s voice came up in 2017 in Uluru. Here, a group of about 250 Indigenous leaders met and raised their voices against the discrimination their people suffered when the European colonization began in the early eighteenth century.
The meetings of those leaders gave a twelve-paragraph pronouncement that fit on a single piece of paper, ultimately after different negotiations known as the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Uluru is a landmark sandstone rock in central Australia that is a very sacred site to traditional owners of the Aboriginal community. These people have lived in this place for about 50,000 years.
With every passing year, the Aboriginal people are becoming more active in their voices, but now, it would be less likely to see any future referendum coming up in their support.
The people from the indigenous community deeply condemned this referendum and is hurt by the voting of Australians. The raise question why one of the oldest residents of Australia be left out and not heard even in the parliament. They have somewhere lost hope after the failed referendum.
It would be more interesting to see what the Australian people and government do for their aboriginal people.