All Your Questions About What Happens To The Voice To Parliament Now, Answered

On Saturday, October 14, Australians headed to the polls to vote on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum. Later that day, it was announced the Australian public had returned a majority No result in both the national and state results. In short, the referendum had failed; a devastating result for First Nations people and allies across the country.
The Voice was proposed as a means of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution. So what happens now and is there still a roadmap towards a Voice to Parliament and recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution?
Below, we walk you through what might happen at a federal and state government level and what's next for both sides of the campaign, the Yes23 campaign as well as the 'Progressive No'. We know that many No voters have, in the words of Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan, “stoked racial tensions and caused harm to First Nations peoples”, which is why we have chosen not to focus on their perspectives in this article.

What Does The No Result Actually Mean?

If the result of the referendum had been a Yes, 93 words would have been added to the end of the Australian Constitution. These 93 words would have achieved three things:
— They would have recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia.
— They would have led to the establishment of a new representative body to be known as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, which would have advised the Parliament and Executive on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
— Finally, they would have given the Parliament the power to legislate the details of the Voice including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
As the referendum has unfortunately returned a No result, this change to the constitution will not occur and the Voice to Parliament will not be established at this time.

Could The Government Still Legislate The Voice?

Opponents of the Voice such as Senator Lidia Thorpe have suggested establishing a Voice through parliamentary legislation rather than the constitution, with a number of cross-benchers backing the idea.
However, last Sunday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ruled out legislating the Voice in the event that the No campaign won.
"If Australians vote No, I don't believe that it would be appropriate to then go and say, 'Oh, well, you've had your say, but we're going to legislate anyway'," he said on ABC TV.
In his speech on Saturday night, Albanese said we "must find a new way forward".
“We intend, as a government, to do what we can to close the gap,” he told reporters. “To do what we can to advance reconciliation, to do what we can to listen to the First Australians.”
He said there would be a 'next chapter', and reconciliation would be a part of that chapter.
“Tonight isn’t a night to say, ‘we will move on, and here is the next agenda’. The agenda will be guided by the principles that I put forward consistently — engagement, consultation, listening, progress to close the gap,” he said.

Will The Coalition Legislate The Voice If They Win The Next Election?

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton — who was a vocal supporter of the No campaign — is pushing for an alternative to the Voice to Parliament.
"At all times in this debate, I have levelled my criticism at what I consider to have been a bad idea — to divide Australians based on their heritage or the time at which they came to our country. The Coalition, local Australians, wants to see Indigenous disadvantage addressed. We just disagree on the Voice being the solution," he said in a statement following the referendum.
If the coalition wins the next election, Dutton had promised to hold a second referendum on the constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.
However, on Monday morning, he walked back that decision when he was asked whether he was still planning to hold a second referendum.
“I think that’s important, but I think it’s clear that the Australian public is probably over the referendum process for some time," he told reporters in Canberra.

Could The Voice To Parliament Be Legislated At A State Level?

The ACT was the only state or territory in Australia to return a majority Yes vote in the referendum. However, other states and territories have been creating their own processes to implement the Uluru Statement of the Heart at a state level.
In March, South Australia, which returned a majority No result in the referendum, became the first state to pass legislation to establish its own Voice to Parliament. In June, it 'paused' the establishment of the body to minimise confusion with the federal campaign.
In September, NSW Premier Chris Minns told The Guardian Australia that he was open to a NSW Voice to Parliament regardless of the outcome of the federal referendum.
“I don’t want to put preconceived ideas on it,” he told the publication.
“When you’ve got an active, engaged group, like First Nations Australians, you can’t treat them as a homogeneous group. That first year [of consultation] is really important.”
Other states have been moving forward on the treaty component of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
In early 2022, Queensland passed laws to establish the First Nations Treaty Institute — a body to prepare First Nations for the upcoming Treaty process.
In 2019, Victoria established its First Peoples Assembly. Made up of 21 Indigenous leaders representing the state's five regions, the assembly's aim to decide the rules in which the state government will negotiate treaties with First Nations peoples.

What Does This Mean For The Uluru Statement From The Heart?

On October 16, the federal government returns to Canberra for a sitting week, where it's likely to face questions about how it will carry out the rest of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was developed by 250 Indigenous leaders, called for three phases of reform — Voice, followed by Treaty and Truth.
During his victory speech on election night in May 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government was committed to rolling out the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
“On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full," he said on the night.
"And together we can embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
"We can answer its patient, gracious call for a Voice enshrined in our constitution. Because all of us ought to be proud that amongst our great multicultural society, we count the oldest living continuous culture in the world. And I acknowledge Australia's next Indigenous Affairs Minister, Linda Burney, who is here."
It's expected Albanese will address how the government will work towards the Treaty and Truth components of the Statement in the coming weeks.

What's Next For The Yes23 Campaign?

Following the announcement of the results on Saturday night, Yes23 campaigner and filmmaker Rachel Perkins posted a statement to social media on behalf of Indigenous Australians who supported the Voice to Parliament.
The statement, which was endorsed by members of the Uluru Dialogue, thanked supporters of the Yes campaign — including voters, volunteers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
"To the Australians who supported us in this vote — we thank you sincerely. You comprise many millions of Australians of love and goodwill. We know you wanted a better future for Australia, and to put the colonial past behind us by choosing belated recognition and justice," it read.
The group then called a week of silence — from Saturday, October 14 — to mourn the decision.
"Now is not the time to dissect the reasons for this tragic outcome. This will be done in the weeks, years and decades to come. Now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequence of this outcome," the statement read.
"Much will be asked about the role of racism and prejudice against Indigenous people in this result. The only thing we ask is that each and every Australian who voted in this election reflect hard on this question.
"To our people, we say: do not shed tears. This rejection was never for others to issue.
"The truth is that rejection was always ours to determine. The truth is that we offered this recognition and it has been refused. We now know where we stand in this our own country. Always was. Always will be.
"We will not rest long. Pack up the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Fly our flags low."
Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the No result was not the "end of reconciliation".
"To all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I want to say this: I know the last few months have been tough but be proud of who you are, be proud of your identity," she said. 
"Be proud of the 65,000 years of history and culture that you are part of, and your rightful place in this country.
"We need to keep listening to Indigenous Australians about what works and what can make practical differences for the next generation." 

What's Next For The Progressive No Campaign?

Senator Lidia Thorpe, who was the face of the 'Progressive No' campaign, said the next step should be focusing on treaty and truth-telling and the establishment of the Truth and Justice Commission.
“We're in a war…we need to end that war. And the only way we can do that is through truth-telling, healing, and ultimately a treaty, because that’s the only thing left for us. And that’s what will truly unite this nation,” she told ABC radio.

So, What Now?

"Blak matters should matter to every single one of us every single day," Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman Teela Reid previously told Refinery29 Australia. "It's not just a hip topic," she said, explaining that we must centre "Blak issues and matters in our everyday lives, and not just when it makes headlines."
Now more than ever, it's important for Australia to contend with its colonial history, and the lingering impacts it has had on its First Nations people. It's important to amplify First Nations voices, support Indigenous-owned businesses, and to do the work to show up as a better ally, not just today but every day.
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