The Western Australian Council of Social Service would like to express its most sincere gratitude to all the First Nations peoples and Australians who have stood proud and fought so incredibly hard throughout this Voice to Parliament referendum process.
In the face of severe and often ugly opposition, Aboriginal people with unrelenting courage and truth-telling over decades, generously presented a gift to our nation, respectfully explained historical injustices and invited us all to learn and grow as a nation.
We thank the Prime Minister and the Federal Labor Government for having the conviction to take this referendum to the Australian people at the request of First Nations peoples. We thank the Prime Minister and all the parliamentarians who advocated for the voice, including members of the Teals, Greens, Nationals and independents who stood by the Uluru Statement from the Heart. And a special thanks to the Liberal parliamentarians who advocated for the voice and did not use this moment in Australian history to win political points at the detriment of First Nations peoples.
On Monday we marked the end of the Week of Silence that many First Nations leaders called for following the outcome of the referendum.
The evidence is in, the majority of Aboriginal people supported the Voice. Great shame on all those who told outright lies in campaigning for No.
We must now confront what this outcome means for First Nations Justice and for our country’s and democracy.
The referendum, aimed at establishing a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, was a critical step towards recognising and giving a meaningful voice to Indigenous Australians in the country’s political decision-making process. The failure to pass this referendum is heart-breaking and clearly demonstrates that there is more work to be done in Australia’s journey towards justice for its Indigenous population.
Australia now faces the challenge of healing the divisions created during the campaign. The nation needs to come together to address the systemic issues that the referendum was intended to rectify. Once again, there will be an expectation that Aboriginal leaders and community members will give to us generously, with open hearts, with patience and respectfully provide a way forward. We must give time for people to heal and allies must continue to lean in and offer your support.
WACOSS will continue to stand in solidarity with First Nations peoples and all Australians who have a desire for a better future for all of its citizens. It is only through your unrelenting courage and ambition to have the voices of First Nations peoples heard that we will drive positive change.
We urge the Albanese government and parliaments everywhere to continue to show leadership by responding to the outstanding calls for justice, listening deeply listening to First Nations communities and respond to their calls for ongoing change.
WACOSS Chief Executive Officer Louise Giolitto said:
“In the wake of this failed referendum, it is crucial for Australia to recommit itself to the principles of justice. This must include addressing racism, empowering Indigenous voices, and taking tangible steps towards a more inclusive and representative nation.
“From the outset of this campaign, our organisation has maintained that regardless of the outcome, we would continue to be a proactive ally and support First Nations peoples and their voices. This will continue to be a priority in the WACOSS strategic plan and is fundamental to achieving our vision and purpose.
“We will take time to reflect on what has transpired throughout this referendum process and navigate our path forward with sensitivity and compassion.
“However, we must continue to ask ourselves what community service organisations can do to support First Nations peoples? What more can we be doing? Are these incredibly important conversations happening within the boardrooms? Where in your decision making are First Nations voices heard truth telling and supported?
“I would like to pay tribute to the magnitude of people who have stepped up to support the Yes Campaign, which was in excess of 50,000 volunteers in WA alone.
“We need build on the momentum gained from the referendum and steer it towards a brighter future for both First Nations peoples and all Australians.”