Indigenous activists who want Australia to create an advisory body to represent the country’s poorest ethnic minorities have called the rejection of the initiative in a constitutional referendum a “shameful act.”
Many advocates of the Indigenous Voice in Parliament have been silent for a week and flew Aboriginal flags at half-mast in Australia after the consultation on October 14, which decided against keeping the entity in the constitution.
In an open letter to federal lawmakers dated Sunday and seen by The Associated Press on Monday, activists in favor of the project said the outcome was “horrific and malicious beyond belief.”
“The reality is that the majority of Australians have committed a shameful act, knowingly or unknowingly, and nothing positive can be derived from it,” the letter said.
The letter was written by indigenous leaders, community members and various organizations, but was not signed.
Indigenous leader Sean Gordon said Monday that he was one of several people who drafted the letter and decided not to add his signatures.
“This is a declaration that will engage Indigenous people across the country and non-Indigenous people across the country, so having individuals or organizations sign it is not the strategy we’re following,” Gordon told the Australia Broadcasting Corp.
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who heads the government while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is in the United States, said he accepted the public verdict.
“The Australian people have always given the right answer, and the government has certainly accepted the result of the referendum, so we will not continue to recognize the constitution,” Marles told reporters.
The authors of the letter attributed the result in part to the main opposition parties supporting the no-vote.
They accused the Liberal Party and the Nationals, two conservative parties, of choosing to inflict “gratuitous political damage” on the left-of-center Labor Party government instead of supporting the indigenous poor.
No referendum has produced a positive result in Australia without support from the main parties.
Veteran Liberal senator Michaelia Cash said voters rejected Albanese’s proposed Voice format.
“On referendum day, Australians didn’t vote ‘no’ to Indigenous integration, they didn’t vote ‘no’ to improving outcomes for our poorest. What Australians voted ‘no’ to was Mr Albanese,” Cash said.
The authors of the letter said that social networks and general media “released a tsunami of racism against our people” during the referendum campaign.
The proposal was rejected with a 61% vote against.