Indigenous Australians from across the country devastated by Saturday night’s referendum result have called a “week of silence” to grieve the outcome and “reflect on its meaning and significance”.
In addition to a total media blackout, the Yes leaders said they would lower their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to half-mast for the week to acknowledge the result, and called for others to do the same.
“Now is not the time to dissect the reasons for this tragic outcome. This will be done in the weeks, years and decades to come,” the group said in a statement.
“Now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequence of this outcome.”
They said in the fullness of time, they would announce their path forward.
An emotional Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the efforts of Indigenous leaders, and thanked Australians who had voted for recognition, declaring it was “not the end of the road”.
“And it is certainly not the end of our efforts to bring people together,” he said.
“The issues we sought to address have not gone away, and neither have the people of goodwill and good heart who want to address them.
“And address them we will, with hope in our heart, with faith in each other, with kindness towards each other, walking together in a spirit of unity and healing, walking together for a better future for the First Australians, whose generosity of spirit and resilience intensifies the privilege that all Australians have of sharing this consonant with the oldest continuous culture on earth.”
🚨 a statement from Indigenous Australians who backed the Voice
"when we determine a new direction for justice and our rights, let us once again unite. Let us convene in due course to carefully consider our
"We are calling A Week of Silence from tonight to grieve" pic.twitter.com/7S4MzGsdVE
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) October 14, 2023
The group of Indigenous leaders lamented the fact that the people who had “only been on this continent for 235 years would refuse to recognise those whose home this land has been for 60,000 and more years is beyond reason”.
“The referendum was a chance for newcomers to show a long-refused grace and gratitude and to acknowledge that the brutal dispossession of our people underwrote their every advantage in this country,” they said in the post, which was shared by the Central Land Council, Central Australian Congress, and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
Although Indigenous leaders say Saturday night’s result spells an end to the plight of reconciliation, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said otherwise.
“To all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I want to say this: I know the last few months have been tough, but be proud of who you are, be proud of your identity, be proud of the 65,000 years of history and culture that you are part of, and your rightful place in this country,” she said.
“We will carry on, we will move forward, and we will thrive.
“This is not the end of reconciliation, and in the months ahead, I will have more to say about the government’s renewed commitment to closing the gap, because we all agree we need better outcomes for First Nations people.”
The Indigenous leaders thanked the Prime Minister and his government for having the “conviction” to hold the referendum, and paid their respects to all other parliamentarians – particularly the Liberals who advocated for yes – who, they said, supported the Voice and “stood by us”.
They paid respect to the millions of Australians of “love and goodwill” who supported the Voice in hopes of putting the “colonial past behind us by choosing belated recognition and justice”.
“To our people we say: do not shed tears. This rejection was never for others to issue. The truth is that rejection was always ours to determine. The truth is that we offered this recognition and it has been refused,” they said.
“We now know where we stand in this, our own country.”