It started with optimism.
“We’re all feeling pretty hopeful for the result in Wollongong,” Yes campaigner and Wollongong’s 2023 Citizen of the Year, Sally Stevenson, said not long after the polls closed.
“What has driven us is the call of history and the importance that we place on this question in the referendum to respect, recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and enshrine a Voice to the constitution.”
Despite polls predicting a No vote, the mood among campaigners in Wollongong Town Hall was largely upbeat.
When the ABC declared an early Yes win in Cunningham, volunteer Callum Glasgow pointed to fellow campaigners, calling “champagne? Champagne? Champagne?”
“This just finally proves that the people of Wollongong have open hearts, they’re forward thinking and they are the best of Australia,” Callum said not long after the Cunningham call. At midnight, the Yes vote in the federal seat sat at 51.6 per cent.
But calls for celebration fell away as results from the rest of the nation rolled in. By 7:45, campaigners were in tears.
Bindal woman and UOW Vice-President (Indigenous Strategy & Engagement) Jaymee Beveridge said she feared increased racism post-referendum.
“For 235 years, there’s always been the same thing: policy, legislation, some action of government. But when it’s put to the people for the first time and the people say that they don’t want to recognise us, that’s really hard to take.”
“It just means now that that pathway to recognition and accelerating, possible progress is now just the long way around again.”
Nationally, the ACT was the only jurisdiction in the country that voted Yes to enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the referendum.
While counting is still underway, and it could take a few more days for the Australian Electoral Commission to release an official result, enough has been tallied to show that Australia has rejected Indigenous constitutional recognition.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr made no secret that he wanted the Territory to return the highest Yes vote in the country.
He issued a statement saying Australians have had their say and that had to be respected.
“I hope that Canberrans who are saddened by the national result can take some heart that our community strongly voted Yes,” Mr Barr said.
“The ACT has proved once again that we are the most inclusive and progressive jurisdiction in Australia.
Counts are ongoing across the rest of the country.
As of 11 am, the votes in the Illawarra electorates stand at:
- Cunningham: Yes – 51.66 per cent; No – 48.34 per cent
- Whitlam: Yes – 35.40 per cent; No – 64.60 per cent
- Gilmore: Yes – 38.16 per cent; No – 61.84 per cent
The national vote stands at 39.75 per cent for Yes and 60.25 per cent for No. None of the six states have a majority for the Yes vote.
For the referendum to pass, the proposed alteration must be approved by both a national majority of voters and a majority of voters in a majority of the states (at least four out of the six states).
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.