Indigenous leaders have revealed they may push to establish a Voice anyway after 8.6million Australians voted No to including an Aboriginal advisory body in the constitution.
A group of unnamed Aboriginal leaders ended their ‘week of silence’ on Sunday evening, issuing an open letter that slammed the 61 per cent of Australians who voted No as having committed a ‘shameful act’.
The statement – shared by activist Allira Davis and former Labor senator Nova Peris – states: ‘Australia is our country… It is the legitimacy of the non-Indigenous occupation in this country the requires recognition, not the other way around.’
The open letter claims to be ‘the collective insights and views of a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, community members and organisations who supported Yes’.
While the statement has some marked differences from a leaked version revealed hours earlier, it still blamed the Coalition – which includes prominent No campaigners Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Nyunggai Mundine – for the loss.
The published letter said: ‘The truth is that the majority of Australians have committed a shameful act whether knowingly or not, and there is nothing positive to be interpreted from it. We needed truth to be told to the Australian people.’
The unsigned letter was posted online late on Sunday night by Aboriginal activist Allira Davis
That ‘truth’ sentence is an apparent hint that the Indigenous leaders of the Yes campaign will now turn their attention to another part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – that of ‘truth-telling’ about the nation’s leaders.
Despite the huge loss, the Indigenous leaders also said they ‘want to talk with our people and our supporters about establishing – independent of the Constitution or legislation – an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to take up the cause of justice for our people.
‘Rejection of constitutional recognition will not deter us from speaking up to governments, parliaments and to the Australian people.’
The anonymous letter writers also claim to ‘have an agenda for justice in pursuit of our First Nations rights that sorely need a Voice – we will continue to follow our law and our ways, as our Elders and Ancestors have done’.
The letter also called for schoolchildren to be taught more about the struggles of Indigenous Australians, saying a lack of knowledge and racism contributed to the referendum defeat.
‘That so many Australian people believe there is no race or division on race in the current Australian Constitution speaks to the need for better education on Australian history and better civics education,’ it said.
The letter blamed the Coalition, which includes prominent No backing Aboriginal senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (pictured left) and Warren Nyunggai Mundine (right), for the loss
The statement (pictured) said Indigenous leaders would continue to lobby for a Voice, despite the comprehensive referendum defeat
In a direct challenge to non-Indigenous Australians, the letter said ‘Australia is our country. We accept that the majority of Australians have rejected recognition in the Australian Constitution.
‘We do not for one moment accept that this country is not ours. Always was. Always will be.
‘It is the legitimacy of the non-Indigenous occupation in this country the requires recognition, not the other way around. Our sovereignty has never been ceded.’
The published statement did not include a line in the leaked draft which said that ‘Only the shameless could say there is no shame in this outcome.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted No campaign leader Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and the pro-referendum Uluru Dialogues campaign for comment.
As of Monday, the current referendum vote count shows 5.6million Australians voted Yes, 8.65 million voted No and 143,910 votes were informal. The count continues.