On the 14th of October, Australians were tasked with an important task of choosing to vote yes or no on the heavily divisive Voice to Parliament referendum
. If passed, an advisory Aboriginal “Voice” board would be created to advise and consult on laws that would significantly affect Aboriginal lives. The significance of the vote lies in the fact that this would be a constitutional change and would guarantee the continuation of the voice advisory board regardless of changes in government. Previous attempts at creating advisory bodies were short-lived as they were dissolved when there was a change in government. The exact wording of the vote is this: “A Proposed Law: To alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”
However, this referendum did not come without criticism. Critics considered the referendum’s passing to be harmful and divisive. They believed that creating a special exclusive advisory board for a select group of people would hinder a fair and equal process. Interestingly enough, one of the movements under the “Vote No” umbrella was spearheaded by Aboriginal senator Lidia Thorpe
. She believes that the referendum is going in the wrong direction and calls instead for a separate treaty to be made between the First Nations peoples and the Australian government. The issue also became highly politicized, with the ruling labor party supporting the “yes” vote and the opposition supporting the “no” vote. Some citizens voted no as an expression of dismay
towards the Labor government and their failure to address other issues, choosing to prioritize the referendum instead.
The issue of inequality for Aboriginal and First Nations people remains relevant in Australia, but Australia will have to find a different way to address these issues. The leader of the opposition has called the referendum“a symptom of the madness of identity politics which has infected the 21st century”
. The results of the referendum will undoubtedly send shockwaves across the world and cause conservative thought to re-examine identity politics in modern democracies.