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Asia and the Pacific
Western Asia

Australia - October 2023

Indigenous Voice referendum fails
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On 14 October, Australian voters decisively rejected a proposal (via referendum) to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution and to establish a First Nations voice in parliament. Voter turnout was at 89.95 per cent. The outcome maintains the status quo for representation of Indigenous communities and has been described by experts as a significant setback for Indigenous rights in the nation. Indigenous leaders noted that the defeat challenges ongoing reconciliation efforts, potentially leading to more confrontational discussions over Indigenous relations and issues concerning Indigenous rights. The referendum campaign encountered numerous challenges, including a lack of bipartisan support, misinformation, and a lack of detail about implementation of the Voice. In response to the defeat, Indigenous leaders called for a "week of silence" in mourning, while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese affirmed the commitment to continuing the path toward reconciliation. 

Sources: Human Rights Watch, ASPI The Strategist, Reuters, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, New York TimesAustralian Electoral Commission