Canberra: Indigenous Australian leaders have called for a week of silence after voters defeated a historic referendum to recognise First Nations people in the constitution.
In a statement issued late Sunday night, a coalition of Indigenous organizations from across Australia who supported the referendum said they would take a week to “grieve” the result, reports Xinhua news agency.
As of Monday morning with 78 per cent of votes counted by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), more than 60 per,cent of Australians had voted “no” to changing the constitution to recognise Indigenous Australians by establishing a Voice to Parliament that would have advised politicians on all matters affecting Indigenous people.
The referendum, Australia’s first since 1999, required a national majority of voters and majorities in at least four out of six states to pass.
All six states rejected the proposal.
“This is a bitter irony. That people who have 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 coalition said in its statement.
“We are calling for a week of silence to grieve this outcome and reflect on its meaning and significance.”
They asked every Australian to “reflect hard” on the outcome of the referendum and to consider the role of “racism and prejudice” against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the result.
According to AEC data, regions with a high proportion of Indigenous Australians overwhelmingly voted in favour of the referendum.
Of the 21 mobile polling booths sent by the AEC to remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (NT), only one recorded a majority “no” vote and 17 returned “yes” votes exceeding 60 per cent.