Yes campaign leader Thomas Mayo has broken his silence following the referendum’s comprehensive No vote verdict on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Mayo became a controversial figurehead and face of the official Yes23 campaign that backed the change to the constitution which would create the new advisory body.
He was one of the original signatories and architects of the Uluru Statement From The Heart in 2017 which eventually led to the referendum.
But the Yes campaign failed miserably, losing millions of votes in the final few weeks before last Saturday, with more than 60 per cent of Australians rejecting it.
Thomas Mayo became the controversial figurehead of the official Yes23 campaign that backed the change to the constitution which would create the new advisory body to parliament
The Indigenous leadership of the Yes campaign called for a week of silence that ended on Saturday.
Mayo has been quiet since the result but on Saturday penned a column for The Saturday Paper.
In his piece, Mayo said that as a parent of five children, he was ‘acutely aware of the way in which our children absorb everything’.
He recalled how his 12-year-old son had gone to bed crying after the loss became official, and had been ‘barely consolable’.
‘We came to realise he had been feeling the weight of the referendum on his little shoulders,’ he said.
Mayo said he too had broken down in tears on the day following the referendum defeat.
Mayo stressed that there was a need for quiet contemplation after an ‘intense’ campaign.
Mayo (centre) has been quiet since the result but on Saturday penned a column for The Saturday Paper outlining his thoughts on the failed referendum campaign
He said anyone who stood up for the Yes side was ‘brutalised’.
‘We were labelled communists, greedy elites, puppets of the United Nations and promoters of a racially divided Australia,’ he said.
‘None of this is true’.
Mayo said the campaign had unleashed racist vitriol ‘at a level not seen for decades in Australia’.
‘Indigenous advocates for the Voice could not speak out about the abuse without some sections of the media, whose audiences we needed to persuade, falsely claiming that we were calling all ‘No’ voters racist,’ he said.
Mayo pointed out what he called an ‘abhorrent’ No campaign cartoon printed in The Australian Financial Review as ‘one of many’ examples of racist abuse.
The full-page ad in the AFR depicted Mayo alongside the Wesfarmers chairman, Michael Chaney, and his daughter, the federal teal MP Kate Chaney.
The ad carried an authorisation from Advance, the group behind Fair Australia, the main group campaigning against the Voice.
Chaney, the member for Curtin, is depicted as a girl in a teal dress, sitting on her father’s lap as he brandishes a pile of cash toward Mayo.
Nine, who own the AFR, later apologised for the ad running in the newspaper.
Last Saturday, more than 60 per cent of Australians rejected the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament (pictured, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the Garma Festival in August)
In his column on Saturday, Mayo said there were aspects of the Yes campaign which could have been done better and that he had time to reflect on during the week’s silence.
‘These thoughts hurt, like an aching emptiness in my chest,’ he said.
Mayo expressed his disappointment in the behaviour of opposition leader Peter Dutton throughout the referendum campaign, calling the Liberal leader ‘two-faced’.
‘When Albanese negotiated the constitutional alteration with the Referendum Working Group, he did so in good faith, while Dutton was duplicitous, two-faced, deceitful.’
He also blasted the opposition leader for walking back on a promise to hold a second referendum in light of the first one failing.
‘None of this is bitterness on my part, just truth. Peter Dutton chose politics over outcomes. His career came before fairness. He sought victory at any cost,’ he said.
Mayo put forward his suggestions for what comes next for Indigenous campaigners across the country.
‘We continue our calls for our voices to be heard, for reform and for justice, and we need your ongoing support, he said.
‘Imagine what we can achieve if the almost seven million Australians who voted ‘Yes’ continue to have conversations with their neighbours, meeting ‘No’ voters with an understanding that they may have voted ‘No’ because of the lies they were told’.
Mayo said he believed in time that ‘in time we will turn the ‘Nos’ into ‘Yeses’.
Mayo urged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to continue ‘push for our common goals’ and not be silenced.
He said that despite the loss of the Yes campaign, he believed Indigenous peoples were right to take the invitation in the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the Australian people, and ended with a call for unity over division.
‘Whether you voted ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, I say to you with humility and respect, open your hearts and your minds henceforth, he said.
‘The truth should be unifying, not divisive’.
In a series of social media posts, Mayo called for ‘rent’ to be paid to First Nations people, for the date of Australia Day to be changed and for reparations
After the referendum defeat Mayo said he refused to accept the referendum’s No vote verdict on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Despite the scale of the crushing defeat at the polls, Mr Mayo insisted to supporters: ‘We’re not taking No for an answer.’
Just before the loss was confirmed, Mr Mayo took to the stage at the Yes23 vote count HQ at Wests Ashfield Leagues Club in Sydney to deliver his defiant message to supporters.
‘If it is a No answer, then we’re not lying down, we’re not taking No for an answer, and we will continue, he said.
Mayo then unleashed a spray at the No campaign, accusing its activists and Opposition leader Peter Dutton of being ‘dishonest’ and ‘lied to the Australian people’.
After the referendum defeat Mayo said he refused to accept the referendum’s No vote verdict on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament (pictured: a Yes campaigner in Byron Bay)
During the referendum campaign, comments from his past resurfaced in which he called for ‘rent’ to be paid to First Nations people, for the date of Australia Day to be changed and for reparations.
In a series of tweets dating back to 2018, Mayo listed ‘all the things we imagine when we demand’ a Voice, including ‘reparations, land back, abolishing harmful colonial institutions’.
Additionally, Mr Mayo said his sights were set on ‘getting ALL our kids out of prisons & in to care… integration of our laws & lore, speaking language, wages back’.
He later told Daily Mail Australia his opinion had changed as the referendum debate had progressed.