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Why did the referendum fail?



The 2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum has been rejected as expected — with the meaning and consequences now up for debate. This debate may be as crucial as the referendum debate itself to determining the future of reconciliation and what it means to be Australian in the 21st century.

It is important to start by acknowledging that there is much hurt and pain at the result. Some will feel rejected and angry. I share in the disappointment at the result. However, we must be careful not to over-react based on such disappointment.

The worst reaction would be to argue that Australia is a nation of racists and that Indigenous peoples now need more radical solutions. This would be a disastrous outcome that betrays the work of reconciliation over the past 50 years.

This interpretation is also ideological, not empirically-based, and seeks to avoid deeper scrutiny of the result that might challenge the assumptions that led to this failed referendum. In particular, it avoids the glaring question: how could the country have shifted so substantially from initial polls of over 70 per cent in favour of altering the Constitution to recognise Indigenous people through the creation of an Indigenous advisory body (the Voice to parliament) to a final result of only 40 per cent? 

This is a remarkable shift in voter support. It is even more remarkable in the light of so much political, academic and celebrity support in favour of the ‘Yes’ campaign.

At the same time, the result should not be overstated. The numerical result in this referendum (40 per cent-60 per cent) is similar to the same-sex marriage plebiscite, though in reverse (a little over 60 per cent voted in support of legalising same-sex marriage). In the case of the plebiscite, a similar margin was widely celebrated as a convincing, even overwhelming, win. I thought the hyperbole in the wake of that plebiscite was exaggerated — for it ignored the substantial number that voted against the plebiscite — so we should not repeat the same misleading hyperbole again. There is still substantial support for reconciliation and recognition of Indigenous peoples in Australia – though it was fractured by a problematic proposal and campaign. Thus, clear, evidence-based explanations for the result are needed for the reconciliation movement to move forward, while acknowledging the pain of the outcome.

Racism is plainly an insufficient justification for the shift in the voting pattern described above (from over 70 per cent to 40 per cent): did more than 30 per cent of Australians suddenly become racists after initially supporting the referendum? It seems highly unlikely – though this is not to discount that racism still exists and may have influenced a small minority of voters. Disinformation, too, seems an insufficient explanation. While it is likely a factor, it alone can’t explain such a large shift.


'This result need not be a cause for despair, inaction or a shift to radicality.' 


While empirical studies will in time indicate the variety of factors motivating voting patterns, there are some initial conclusions that can be proposed for reflection, especially to avoid mistakes that have been made.

The result is primarily a message to the political class: the majority of Australians will not accept changes to the Constitution that are unclear, lack bipartisanship and provoke divisions. While this should have been clear from past referenda, it has now been starkly reaffirmed.

The constitutional expert Anne Twomey argues this inflexibility on the part of Australian voters makes our Constitutional arrangements potentially brittle. While this danger exists, this high bar for change is largely a strength — as the longevity of Australia’s constitutional arrangements shows. Broad-based consensus and bipartisanship, based on clear proposals, seems appropriate as a prerequisite to change the Constitution. It has avoided that sort of partisan and authoritarian manipulations of the Constitution that have been common in many other countries.

It is also important to note that this referendum result actually shares much in common with the 1999 Republic referendum. In both cases, there was initially strong polling for the broad concept of change that was being proposed. However, voting sentiment eventually coalesced to reject the proposals based on dissatisfaction with the meaning of the change, the model that was proposed and disunity amongst advocates for change.

The latter is likely the single biggest factor that went against the success of the Republic and Voice referenda: the main advocates and interested parties were divided, rather than united. Despite a large amount of support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Indigenous communities and advocates were not united. This was demonstrated by the effectiveness of campaigners such as Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Nyunggai Warren Mundine. Though representing a minority, they highlighted convincing counter-arguments that led to serious doubts about the legitimacy of the Voice. [In the case of the marriage plebiscite by contrast, the advocates for change were united around a common message of equality, which mimicked the campaign for change in 1967].

The arguments of the ‘No’ side particularly centred on the legitimacy of granting special political rights to Indigenous peoples under the Constitution – limited though these rights were to be. The lack of engagement from the ‘Yes’ campaign around this issue, and their seeming over-confidence, fatally undermined the referendum.

This year’s result also paralleled the 1999 referendum in another important way: voting patterns. Those outside affluent, inner-city areas were unconvinced of the referendum proposal, while those in inner-city areas tended to vote ‘Yes’. This has implications for the politics of reconciliation going forward: if the lessons of this year’s referendum are not clearly learned, then reconciliation will languish like the republic issue has. I’m confident this can be avoided with the right approach and goodwill.


'Past wrongs must be addressed within the larger vision of a positive reconciliation movement built on a genuine mutual regard, acceptance, and goodwill. This means avoiding the perception of grievance politics.'


An important issue that the reconciliation movement must acknowledge and address is that a politics of shame will not move reconciliation forward. This kind of politics re-emerged periodically during the referendum debate — like in Marcia Langton’s comments about ‘No’ voters being racist — which, understandably, concerned voters. That attempts to shame and guilt the ‘other’ are not good foundations for reconciliation should have been clear from the Howard years but is now reaffirmed. Shame only causes negative and divisive reactions.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that the tragic events of the past can’t be accepted and confronted — the 2007 apology showed that we could accept such events with honesty and goodwill. But these events must be handled without recriminations and shaming. And they certainly must not be perceived as being used for political or financial advantage.

Rather, past wrongs must be addressed within the larger vision of a positive reconciliation movement built on a genuine mutual regard, acceptance, and goodwill. This means avoiding the perception of grievance politics. It also means getting to know each other more deeply — beyond surface level platitudes — while affirming the positive values of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as we seek a common future together.

While Indigenous leaders like Noel Pearson tried to provide such a vision later in the campaign, Australians largely did not see this from the ‘Yes’ campaign. Instead, they initially experienced condescension and derision, resulting in division that turned voters off. When the ‘Yes’ campaign realised that such negativity was leading them to quickly lose support, their rhetoric shifted. But it was too late. Platitudes about ‘kindness’ and ‘reaching out in friendship’ fell on deaf ears. The damage was done.

Instead, many Australians found a more positive vision offered by advocates such as Jacinta Nampijinpa Price. They found her messages clear, her honesty refreshing, her national pride affirming, and her vision for an Australia of equality, friendship and a ‘fair go’ attractive. She especially found an audience in disillusioned ‘Yes’ voters, migrant communities and even some Indigenous groups.

Some have argued the process became politicised, with Indigenous leaders like Senator Price becoming pawns of the reactionary right-wing. While Indigenous leaders have been engaged in, and even used by, both sides of politics, we should not ignore what each has actually said. Price has emerged as a leading and formidable voice alongside Pearson, Dodson and Langton. Whether one agrees with Price’s political views, her positivity towards her fellow Australians and her nation won over more than the negativity of her opponents. This is a key lesson for the future of the reconciliation movement.


'If voter intentions are understood properly and the lessons are learned, it could be a chance for a reset in the reconciliation movement in Australia: away from shame, ineffective special treatment, and activist ideology towards a spirit of friendship and humility where wrongs can be admitted and difficult issues tackled within a positive vision of reconciliation and nationhood, based on common values and future.'


While Price’s comments about the positive effects of colonisation are disputed, the country will be diminished if we don’t learn from her strengths. A hope-filled vision of Australia that both acknowledges the past and seeks for a positive future in friendship and common purpose is what most Australians seem to be seeking. Price and her allies provided this vision more effectively than the ‘Yes’ campaign. While the past must never be denied or ignored, certain negative versions of Australian history and identity that appeal to an unhealthy victim-politics are now under increasing challenge.

Price’s vision also appealed to key Australian values such as equality and a fair go. Paul Kelly has argued this does not mean rejecting the special provisions and measures that Indigenous Australians have accrued over the last 50 years. While he is largely right, this result will likely place scrutiny on special provisions and expenditures that are ineffective or too inequitably based on race.

This referendum has fundamentally put into question what Australians mean by equality (equality of rights or equality of outcomes?) and how Indigenous Australians are consulted and represented in our political system beyond ad hoc or legislative arrangements. Unfortunately, the details of these points were not sufficiently addressed by the government and advocates of change. They were instead left to ‘No’ leaders like Senator Price who formulated cut-through arguments that popularised the fundamental liberal principle of non-discrimination based on race. These arguments combined effectively with suspicions about the increasing power of certain activist groups — who have constructed increasingly negative and extreme narratives about Australia — and an inflationary crisis that led to a sense that ordinary Australians were not being listened to by their leaders.

Some responded that this detail was not needed. But not showing how Indigenous peoples and groups were to be represented by the Voice begged too many questions. Like Price, Nyunggai Warren Mundine was able to fill this gap and insist that each Indigenous group have its own representation rather than a representative Voice. These critiques also played into doubts about the health and effectiveness of such representative bodies — the ghost of ATSIC, for example, was in the background but not addressed — leading Australians to be wary of establishing a permanent, constitutionally-enshrined body.

This referendum result now means asking serious questions about how to move reconciliation forward and practically ‘close the gap’ on Indigenous disadvantage. The Prime Minister has already sought to re-focus on these issues, but this referendum has shown that he and his Indigenous affairs minister, Linda Burney, have already been eclipsed by the new leadership of advocates like Senator Price. Senator Price wants to ask uncomfortable questions of the government, local communities and families. Like Noel Pearson before her, she argues that Indigenous families and communities must take responsibility for their lives and dysfunction, especially before asking for more political influence and representation. In this way, she may be shifting the political pendulum on Indigenous affairs away from progressive activists and academics.

Overall, this result need not be a cause for despair, inaction or a shift to radicality. In fact, if voter intentions are understood properly and the lessons are learned, it could be a chance for a reset in the reconciliation movement in Australia: away from shame, ineffective special treatment, and activist ideology towards a spirit of friendship and humility where wrongs can be admitted and difficult issues tackled within a positive vision of reconciliation and nationhood, based on common values and future.




Joel Hodge is a lecturer in theology at the Australian Catholic University. 

Main image:  A member of the public casts an early vote at a polling centre in the central business district on October 09, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images)

Topic tags: Joel Hodge, Voice, Referendum, Indigenous, Australia, AusPol, Reconciliation



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Existing comments

I've read a huge amount on this topic and I don't think anyone will write a better summing up than Joel's.

Russell Hamilton | 19 October 2023  

Excellent review - gives me clarity and hope. Thnx!

Michael Hansen | 19 October 2023  

Though I voted Yes, the fact that it failed may be a blessing in disguise, as it paves the way for a Federal court action for a treaty.
Shouldn't be any more difficult than Mabo and they have a barrister on tap with Frank Brennan.

Francis Armstrong | 19 October 2023  

Joel, your piece seems to me to downplay the critical part played by party politics in the referendum. As you acknowledge, the polls were very favourable to the referendum before Dutton adopted a party political No position after the Aston by-election in a controversial manner in the Liberal party room. That ‘No’ position was then helped by the media (the Murdoch media in particular) in spreading demonstrably false and deliberately confusing stories about what the Voice could do in practice. Even the ABC was clearly intimidated during the referendum campaign, arguably defying its charter by presenting very questionable claims in a serious manner.

That provided a rationalisation for both the ordinary loyal conservative voters and for those many with little knowledge of our proud indigenous history and identity (largely due to the shameful lack of pre and post colonial Australian indigenous history in our school curricula), not to mention the few racists (it’s silly to deny their existence and they certainly did not vote Yes), and the many citizens who, often distracted by cost of living issues, were inordinately risk averse.

How did we get to a situation where journalists, even beyond the Murdoch media, felt obliged to report on demonstrably false political positions for ‘balance’ even when a position is supported by lies and gross misrepresentations? That is not ‘balanced’ reporting.

We need a well-developed program of truth-telling regarding the full history of our indigenous people and their treatment post colonisation as a means of cultural development and education as to the real nature of our unique national identity, and the much deserved respect for our indigenous people.

Peter Johnstone | 19 October 2023  
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There is little point in railing against partisan politicians and misinformation. That is the stuff of democratic politics and freedom of speech. The answer is the strength and power of the contrary case. Unfortunately the yes case failed to persuade the relevant majorities of the electors. The stuff of democracy

Jltrew | 20 October 2023  

Congratulations to Joel Hodge for his calm and balanced analysis of the referendum result. I have been appalled by the comments from YES advocates, labelling NO voters as ignorant, lazy, unkind, uncaring, racist, fooled by lies, etc.
Indigenous activists - some as pale-skinned as I am - choose western education, jobs, salaries, technology, cars, housing, health etc - all benefits of colonisation.
This land was Indigenous but let's also acknowledge what non-Indigenous have contributed to build this country (blood, sweat, toil, heartache, resilience, brainpower, taxes, investment, war service, war losses, building, infrastructure, legal system, health system, social welfare system, etc). When that's part of the truth-telling, perhaps we can move forward together and tackle disadvantage - regardless of race.
I have seen the squalor of some outback Indigenous folk and I am ashamed it exists in a prosperous country. But why does the YES camp suggest that all Indigenous are equally in need of special treatment?

Mary | 19 October 2023  
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But why does the YES camp suggest that all Indigenous are equally in need of special treatment? It doesn’t, Mary. Where did you get that idea?

Ginger Meggs | 24 October 2023  

Marcia Langton dis not say “no voters are racist”.

Janet Morrissey | 19 October 2023  

What a relief it is to read this temperate and clear-minded analysis of the reasons for the success of the No vote, and the implications for the future of the work towards reconciliation. This No voter felt recognized. Without Joel’s masterly and respectful summary of the positions of both sides, I’d have been inclined to withdraw from the fray all together. Withdraw into the desert and become a hermit, perhaps? No. The command is still there. Act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly before God, wherever we are right now.

Joan Seymour | 19 October 2023  

The story of the Yes campaign and its failure at the referendum reads like a classic Greek tragedy with hubris playing the major part. Australia is now an extremely diverse country, racially and religiously. The outer suburbs, where the proposition fell, are not predominantly Anglo-Celtic, but very, very mixed. Racial and religious prejudice is something many of these communities have felt for many, many years. Yet, like successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many from these communities have risen above this and become remarkably successful. They have been supported by the majority of the Anglo-Celtic population, including religious leaders and the educational system, both state and Catholic. I think the elite: political, big business and some ATSI leaders made a terrible, terrible mistake and misread the majority of their fellow citizens, who felt they were being sold a pig in a poke and didn't buy that. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs have tin ears and are proceeding as if the Yes case won. This is ludicrous. In Queensland the Leader of the Opposition has grasped the majority sentiment and will not back the Premier in proceeding with a treaty. The Premier has had her bluff called.

Edward Fido | 19 October 2023  

A penetrating, comprehensive and constructive assessment, Joel. Thank you.

John RD | 20 October 2023  

Thanks Joel for a well balanced commentary of the referendum. To move forward, the government must take on board all Price’s recommendations. It is not just just about giving Aboriginals a stronger voice but also ensuring that those leaders leading the Yes campaign step aside as it must be clear to everyone that they do not speak for the communities but mainly for themselves. And one of the main issues is to investigate and audit all the programs that costed taxpayers billions. It is not possible that these monies were just wasted. Much must have ended in some pockets. And to actually move forward, people must take responsibility for the failure of the referendum. All those Yes leaders including the PM must step aside.

Bernard | 20 October 2023  

I couldn't have said it better myself Joel

Nev Hunt | 20 October 2023  

As a supporter of the yes campaign, I do not think Joel’s opinion piece is balanced. Firstly, he has repeated the misinformation that Langton supposedly said no voters were racists. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/sep/12/marcia-langton-denies-criticising-no-voters-and-says-media-is-targeting-her

Secondly, he first states that Price was “refreshingly honest” then later says that there was a dispute about First People not having been disadvantaged by colonisation. I don’t think anyone could seriously believe that. It is clear that most of the people commenting on Joel’s article and stating it is well balanced have glossed over these points.

Joel’s wishful thinking that racism had only a very minor impact on the vote is not borne out by the evidence. The worst case scenario is that 30% of Australians are racists, based on the initial support for the Voice being 70%. I hope that is not the case. However, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there are at least 10% racists amongst us, based on the Amnesty Australia report entitled “Does Australia have a racism problem?” That could have swung the vote in favour of the Voice.

He also does not give balanced coverage to the amount of lies, misinformation and disinformation of the No-sayers. All that was deliberately targeted to create fear and confusion about what was a quite simple proposal.

On the No campaign’s harping about the Voice being racist, they chose to be ignorant of the fact that the First Peoples are entitled to be treated as a special case, because they are the original owners of this country. Mundine said a fortnight before the referendum on TV that he thought a No win would facilitate treaty. We will see whether that eventuates but I doubt it. Nevertheless, a treaty with First Peoples would treat them as a special case, yet apparently that is not racist.

The referendum in hindsight clearly was premature, given that there had been inadequate education of the public and a prior convention to prepare properly for it.

Now that it has failed, I believe that the focus should be on truth-telling before we consider treaties, because it seems the vast majority of Australians are ignorant of the violence perpetrated upon First Peoples by the squatters, other settlers and the colonial regimes. Perhaps Australians will be more inclined to sympathise with what First People want to see if they are properly educated. See: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/ng-interactive/2019/mar/04/massacre-map-australia-the-killing-times-frontier-wars
But the murders were not the complete story either. You can read just about the Queensland history of racial discrimination here: https://www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/10606/Aboriginal-timeline-FINAL-updated-25-July-2018.pdf

And here is an extract from Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s diary, April 10, 1816: “In pursuance of this resolution, and on the grounds of the most imperious necessity, arising from their own hostile, daring, outrageous, and sanguinary Proceedings, I have this Day ordered three Separate Military Detachments to march into the Interior and remote parts of the Colony, for the purpose of Punishing the Hostile Natives, by clearing the Country of them entirely, and driving them across the mountains; as well as if possible to apprehend the Natives who have committed the late murders and outrages, with the view of their being made dreadful and severe examples of, if taken alive. — I have directed as many Natives as possible to be made Prisoners, with the view of keeping them as Hostages until the real guilty ones have surrendered themselves, or have been given up by their Tribes to summary Justice. — In the event of the Natives making the smallest show of resistance – or refusing to surrender when called upon so to do – the officers Commanding the Military Parties have been authorized to fire on them to compel them to surrender; hanging up on Trees the Bodies of such Natives as may be killed on such occasions, in order to strike the greater terror into the Survivors.”


”Dispersal” was the euphemism of choice in Queensland. Native Police units called in from the south to hunt down and massacre those that the local settlers and disease did not. The Queensland Frontier Wars were fierce in the north and lasted decades. It took nearly 20 years to kill more than one thousand Aborigines around Mackay – a district that was proudly represented in Federal Parliament by a coal-hugging buffoon dedicated to “mobilising support for our nation’s history and heritage against black armband revisionism”.”

The massacres, the dispossession, the forced movement into government settlements, the stolen generations, the forced indoctrination into white culture to delete the culture and language of the stolen generations are more than adequate reasons for truth-telling and treaty.

In short, Joel’s commentary is a biased view of this whole sorry business.

Frank S | 20 October 2023  
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'the First Peoples are entitled to be treated as a special case, because they are the original owners of this country.'

This is an important proposition. It should have a raised profile in public politics and be debated with the purpose of being conclusively resolved.

It makes the difference between asserting the legitimacy of a sanctified constitutionally permanent Voice and asserting that the means of representation that should be afforded anyone who is suffering disadvantage should be efficient, effective but no different from what is usual.

Until resolved, the proposition will remain a stumbling block to 'reconciliation', the practical meaning of which, as implemented in policy, will depend on how the meaning of this proposition is resolved.

roy chen yee | 21 October 2023  

An excellent analysis!

Peter Johnstone | 23 October 2023  

Quite a good summary. But why mention on the flimsly baisis that "Some have argued", the statement "Senator Price becoming pawns of the reactionary right-wing", without at least acknowledging the actual input of communists into the Voice, which has been publicly acknowledged by one of its chief architects, Thomas Mayo.
And what of labels, left or right? When the Greens and Independents put forward a motion condemning Israel for "war crimes", Rabbi Nochum Schapiro of Sydney accused those who sought to weaken Israel's response to the Hamas massacre as akin to "Nazi enablers."

Ross Howard | 20 October 2023  
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The "input of communists into the Voice" - really? What's your point? Having been called a "f--king Communist" by an apparent No voter when handing out Yes material at a polling booth, it seems to me that this attempted association with Communism is but further evidence of the many crude attempts to smear the Yes vote by unevidenced and irrelevant association that might influence some.

Peter (PJ) Johnstone | 23 October 2023  

I find your statement that the "attempted association" with Communism is "unevidenced and irrelevant association" to be distinctly illogical, when I clearly stated that there is actual association which has been "publicly acknowledged" by one of its chief architects, Thomas Mayo.

Ross Howard | 24 October 2023  

Excellent review. "Simply the best/ Better than all the rest" that I have read to date! What a tragedy that unthinking political posturing from both sides, often backed by equally ignorant, extreme right media outlets, ruined such a great opportunity.

John Frawley | 20 October 2023  

Thanks Joel, a deeply thoughtful review of ‘what went wrong’ for the Yes campaign. Leaving aside the Voice for a moment, I believe constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples was vital. It would have carried tremendous weight. And given an important recognition. The ‘No’ result also reveals the deep conservatism of Australians and the caution inherent therein. The Voice was a conviction issue and this is not always easy to define in what became a political contest. We will move forward.

Pam | 20 October 2023  

Yours is a political article, Joel. More or less amplifying Murdoch’s “The Australian”, including the mutilation that Marcia Langton said we are racists – which she didn’t – and the cult of personality stuff that Senator Price will join Andrew Peacock, Bronwyn Bishop and Peter Costello as the greatest Conservative future Prime Minister this country has never had. That the senator is in the wrong house, wrong party is a reality which does not matter. Propaganda is make-believe to fool others. Although we do need to be careful: Joseph Goebbels, 20th century master of the Big Lie, ended up believing it himself.

But, I do not want to talk politics, not now. Instead, I want to talk about spirituality. If the Exodus, that ancient story of spiritual transformation is correct, if the Book of Job is correct, if the death and resurrection of Jesus is correct, if the Dark Night of the Soul is correct, then the First Nation’s People are bringing us a gift. Over the last two centuries they have certainly experienced the “desert”; are they now at the beginning of new life? By their experience of suffering do they have a message for us? Maybe we are not listening, instead telling ourselves it’s just propaganda. They’re only really after our backyards.

I could be wrong, of course. Maybe our spiritual tradition is not true, all just make-believe. Or, is it true if we chose to make it happen?

Fosco | 20 October 2023  

Joel reading your article I have to concede that the Yes campaign lost the referendum badly and accept some of your analysis of the result. However I was on the ground campaigning for the past six weeks and my experience was no where near as bland as you state. The rudeness, anger, selfishness and conspiracy misinformation I had thrust into my face was horrible. What shattered me to the core was that many of these people were members of my faith. 68% of Christians voted no. How is that possible if you see the face of Christ in your fellow man.
In over 50 years of demonstrating I have never experience such hatred and racism. My only hope is the magnificent people I met in the Yes23 campaign. They are inspirational Australians.

Marilyn Hoban | 21 October 2023  

Thank you Joel for your well balanced article. Most people recognise aboriginal social and economic disadvantage is an appalling scar on the face of Australian relative prosperity. Most people, I believe, would like deeply to contribute to the development of aboriginal wellbeing, culture, education, workplace readiness and dignity. Of course there are many burning complex questions of injustice to be addressed more effectively much as perhaps Jacinta N Price has suggested. Her view of aboriginal and colonial history may seem more balanced and appealing to NO voters, being founded less on a grievance and victimhood narrative than the racist narrative of the YES campaign. Many No voters might feel more accommodated by her approaches and eagerly wish to assist aboriginal claims for justice, reconciliation and development through such understandings, initiatives and responses. The referendum has also shown it can be arrogant to be judgemental of No voters. Paul Tillich reminds us , 'the righteousness of the righteous is their unrighteousness' - maybe of either Voting camp.

Bill Hallam | 23 October 2023  

I would suggest Marilyn Hoban's personal experience of the referendum possibly differs from others and cannot be taken as representative of the state of the nation. To me there seemed to be gross misrepresentation and distortion from both sides. This made voting intelligently difficult. The Yes case got onboard most religious groups, including the Muslims. This, to me, was a political, rather than a religious issue.

Edward Fido | 23 October 2023  

Is it possible that the majority of Australian citizens are indeed racists?

John Frawley | 23 October 2023  
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A possible racist factor is pertinent, I believe, to anyone on either side, who gives due consideration to the referendum issue, JF - but especially, perhaps, to those whose discernment does not subscribe to a utopian estimation of humanity - personal and collective - that precludes the need for God's grace in self-knowledge, judgment and action.

John RD | 25 October 2023  

When a No voter tells you she's not a racist, believe her!

s martin | 25 October 2023  

I love a timid country
A land of scare campaigns
Where mindless bogan slogans
Just overtake our brains
The stunted, short horizons
Of those who will not see
Who, presented with alternatives
Think only: me, me, me.

(with apologies to Dorothea Mackellar)

Ginger Meggs | 23 October 2023  
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I love a free-aired country
A land of the "fair go"
Whose citizens enjoy the right
To vote their "Yes" or "No"
And possess the opportunity
For alternate points of view
In pursuing a common purpose
To seek what's good and true.

John RD | 24 October 2023  

Touché John ! Another example of how we each see see the elephant from different vantage points. :-)

Ginger Meggs | 25 October 2023  

I much prefer your version of Dorothea’s poem, Ginger. For me it is deep Catholicism and Augustinian. Some people say St Augustine is too pessimistic, too much into Original Sin. But I disagree. It’s our darkness that has to be brought into the Light. Alternatively, we can leave it buried in the Nullarbor, unseen but more potent. That’s the terrain they manipulate: Goebbels, the Murdock Media to marketing agents of sexualised junk consumerism.

For me at least, John’s version is too much the “Prosperity Gospel”, too much American televangelism. But I could be wrong. Maybe what I have buried in the Nullarbor is my Catholicism?

Should I watch “Sky after Dark” instead of NITV?

Fosco | 25 October 2023  

Augustine certainly recognized Original Sin and its destructive effects, Fosco - but more so, with St Paul, Christ's call to repentance and the liberating power of God's grace.
The mood of the "Exultet" in the Easter Vigil's liturgy - a movement from darkness into light - is a celebratory one of hope; its words boldly proclaim Adam's sin paradoxically as a "Happy fault" because it gave us Christ, the world's Redeemer. And John Henry Newman counsels: "Gloom is no Christian temper."

John RD | 26 October 2023  

I encountered a tremendous amount of ignorance on social media during the campaign for the Voice, often wilful, including repetition of the same misinformation and disinformation. The slogan “if you don’t know, vote no” was disgraceful. People only had to carry out simple web searches to find out. That’s all I did for responding to often inflammatory posts. You can gauge the scale of it from the links I posted in my answers, as follows, and I also provide them for the benefit of all readers.











Frank S | 23 October 2023  

Would not be overcome by hubris, imported 'architecture of influence' this can be linked back to the broader Anglo and transnational eugenics movement; masked by other issues around indigenous welfare, border security on asylum seekers, refugees, restriction on temporary residents and immigration, with population control.

Something was missed in the article, not just how the positive majority for The Voice was inverted, like Brexit and Trump, but negative and often unethical campaigning through right wing influencers, think tanks and media, targeting older Australia (aka Brexit & Trump)?

UTS academic Taylor found direct evidence of the US fossil fueled Atlas or Koch Network linked think tanks (see DeSmog 'A Secretive Network Is Fighting Indigenous Rights in Australia and Canada, Expert Says') eg. IPA and CIS behind the No Campaign inc. Price and Mundine, with others eg. Abbott linked Advance Australia, backgrounded by two generations of mainstreaming neo white Australia; curious silence from One Nation and a faux environmental NGO SusPopAu linked to Tanton Network (in US shares donors with Kochs/Atlas, content for FoxNews and GOP policies).

Tanton was former (Rockefeller Bros. funded) ZPG Zero Population Growth and colleague of Paul 'Population Bomb' Ehrlich, dec. white nationalist John 'passive eugenics' Tanton, admirer of white Australia, anti-semitic and anti-Catholic, visited and hosted by SusPopAus; described by SPLC as 'the racist founder of the modern anti-immigration movement'.

Suppose it's progress when post WWII most (WASPish) Australians opposed both Catholic and Jewish immigration, now how things have changed, or not 'honorary WASPs'?

Andrew Smith | 23 October 2023  

Interesting point of view, though not one I understand. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s assertion “No, there is no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation” seems (to me) to be more in concert with Orwellian doublespeak rather than being “clear”.
And I’m troubled by this line of the author’s:
“This kind of politics re-emerged periodically during the referendum debate — like in Marcia Langton’s comments about ‘No’ voters being racist — which, understandably, concerned voters.”
That too is an interesting point to make, no? Langton defended herself in a subsequent ‘Guardian’ interview, saying “Every time the no cases raises one of their arguments, if you start pulling it apart you get down to base racism. I’m sorry to say it but that’s where it lands, or just sheer stupidity.”
It seems clear she’s referring to the standard of the ‘No’ case arguments, as well as to a particular line of questioning — and not, in any way, to the acuity of the Australian voter. I realise many view ‘The Australian’ as a credible source of news and information, but I’d be far more inclined to believe Langton’s version of events before the ‘Australian’s’. Am I wrong?

Ralph Wessman | 23 October 2023  

I think it very dangerous to label the majority of Australians, who voted No, as 'racists'. The issue was far more complex. As I have said elsewhere, there is a tremendous difference between a legislated Voice to parliament, which, if it fails like ATSIC did, can be abolished and a Voice to the executive embedded in the constitution, which cannot. Most people seemed to grasp this.

Edward Fido | 25 October 2023  
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Edward Fido, your claim could mislead. There is not a tremendous difference between a legislated Voice to parliament, which, if it fails like ATSIC did, can be abolished and a Voice to the executive embedded in the constitution, which cannot. The Parliament could vary the legislated Voice in whatever way it liked as long as the Voice provided a means of representation to the Parliament and executive. Indeed, it would have made more sense for ATSIC to be reconstituted rather than abolished, but that would have required the Government and Parliament of the day to listen, and that is the whole point.

Peter Johnstone | 26 October 2023  

As I responded to you elsewhere Edward, it is just not true that a 'Voice embedded in the constitution' cannot be abolished. It could, in fact, be abolished by the same means by which it was established, that is, a referendum. But more importantly, everything about a constitutionally established voice, other than the requirement that there be one, would always be, necessarily, shaped by legislation, as Peter points out. To suggest otherwise is just not true.

Ginger Meggs | 27 October 2023  

It is almost certainly true that not all 'No' voters are racist. However, all the true racists voted 'No'.

John Frawley | 25 October 2023  

It’s worth considering Malcolm Turnbull’s analysis:

‘In my view, the foundational mistake was made in 2017 when the Indigenous leadership on the Referendum Council persuaded their colleagues to abandon the idea of essentially symbolic recognition of Indigenous Australians. Instead, they sought to entrench in the constitution a voice – an advisory council exclusively chosen by and composed of Indigenous Australians.’

‘I did not support entrenching a voice in the constitution in 2017 when it was formally proposed to us by the Referendum Council and neither did anyone else in my cabinet. We said the proposal was not “desirable or capable of winning acceptance in a referendum”. Especially for those like me of an essentially republican, egalitarian mindset, having any institution in the constitution the qualification for which was other than Australian citizenship was hard to accept. After all, wasn’t that our case against the monarchy? But the most fundamental objection was our very firm belief that it simply was not capable of being carried in a referendum.’

See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/22/australias-constitutional-history-told-us-the-voice-referendum-was-unwinnable-sadly-that-was-right-malcolm-turnbull

Frank Brennan SJ | 02 November 2023  

The key to successful constitutional reform for Indigenous Australians should be based on how the Australian constitution has treated Indigenous Australians since 1901.

The repealed section 127 excluded Indigenous Australians from the census and federal representation for 66 years. Hoe could that not cause long term disadvantage?

And while becoming subject to section 51xxvi, the race power, in 1967, was seen as a constitutional upgrade for Indigenous Australians it did not put them on equal constitutional footing as other Australians, because s51xxvi was not created to treat all Australians equally.

A lot of people think that the referendum result prevented racism and inequality being enshrined in our constitution, but they've been in the constitution since day one.

John Carroll | 04 November 2023  

Joel Hodge is indeed fair-minded & a good moral philosopher to boot. It occurs, though, that as one of Australia's foremost Girardian scholars, who has in recent weeks chaired one of a number of gatherings addressed by the gay English priest, James Alison, as well as supervised at least one research thesis employing the Girardian method, Joel might be aware of an alternative frame of reference that Girard employs in his deconstruction of war and violence and which constructs Christ as the 'Sacrificial Lamb of God' or scapegoat for the evils of the world around Him.

In that context, and purely because I admire Hodge's work so much, as well as the efforts of those who have taken the trouble to respond, I wonder whether, now that the referendum issue is buried for a while, the 'peace & tranquility' that temporarily obtains has not been bought at the expense of the victimisation of our First People who, it can plausibly be argued, have for long provided the scapegoat for our collective national pastime of blame-shifting.

With many still sobering and complex pressures on the budget, including fallout from Covid, the housing shortage and global turmoil, have we perhaps duped ourselves?

Michael Furtado | 12 November 2023  

The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods survey of 4,219 Australian adults entitled ‘Explaining voting in the 2023 Australian Referendum’ released today rightly concludes: ‘Ultimately, our data analysis and our direct questioning suggests that Australians voted no because they didn’t want division and remain sceptical of rights for some Australians that are not held by others. All the data suggests that Australians think that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians continue to suffer levels of disadvantage that is both caused by past government policies and that justified extra government assistance. They did not see the Voice model put to them as the right approach to remedy that disadvantage. They may have voted for recognition if framed more symbolically, but of course that was not what the process that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart asked for. No voters saw the proposal as being too risky. The yes campaign tried to overcome this by downplaying the magnitude of the change, but this led to too many regarding the proposal as being marginal to their lives for there to be sufficient enthusiasm to balance against the risk.’

Frank Brennan SJ | 28 November 2023  

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