Thoughts on No: the Aftermath

Words by Gabe (he/him), 17 QLD 


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For months, I had dreamed of waking up on October 15th in a better nation.

In a nation where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were listened to, after 235 long years of suffering.

Instead, I woke up to a divided nation. Not a nation divided by voice. A nation divided by the heartless, egocentric self-centred politicians of the no campaign.

I feel hurt. I feel betrayed. It wasn’t a costly ask. It wasn’t a radical request. It was a modest, humble invitation to Australians to walk with us, to heal the ongoing scars of colonisation. The assimilation. The genocide. The snatching of land. The stealing of children. An advisory body and recognition was a modest request. Instead, conservative forces in Australia said ‘no’.

Racism. Explicit and implicit, intentional and unintentional. Misinformation. The age of social media. Exploitation of weary minds. Just a few of the reasons Australians voted no.

The faces of the no campaign. Puppets of White Australia. Traitors putting their backs to their people for self-gain. For their rise in conservative politics. We won’t forget their betrayal. They may be welcome in the arms of the Liberal Party, but they won’t be welcomed back to our community with wide open arms. For me at least, they would be met with a frosty reception.

October 14th not only devastated us Indigenous peoples, and our growing fight to achieve reconciliation, but it devastated all communities that will suffer under a Liberal government. The LGBTIQA+ community. The disability community. The refugee community. Multicultural Australians. Australian women. Our young people. And of course, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The progress we all have made in our respective journeys for rights, equity and a fair go will meet the Liberal sledgehammer.

Anthony Albanese went above and beyond for us. Anthony has put his 27-year political career on the line for reconciliation. For a better future. While he may have failed, I believe history will place Anthony Albanese among the ranks of Whitlam, Keating, and Rudd. Whitlam poured sand between the fingers of Lingiari. Keating addressed Redfern and enacted Mabo. Rudd apologised. Albanese listened.  Yes, he failed. But is he to blame? No. Racism, greed, misinformation, and heartlessness are to blame.

What’s next? The vast majority of Indigenous Australians are devastated. Broken. Crushed. Grief-stricken. We didn’t ask for the world. We asked for decency. We asked for a fair go. We asked to be heard after decades of our voices falling on deaf ears.

A third of us haven’t, and will never, complete Year 12 or a form of senior education. Of young people in detention, 49% are Indigenous. Our nation’s approach is failing our children. Snatched from their families, their mob, their elders, destitute behind bars. The voice was a fresh approach. An approach we, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, believed would make a difference.

Instead, nothing changes.

The no campaign will rejoice that nothing changes. For them, anyway. The Voice to Parliament, if approved, would not have divided Australia. It would have united Australians. Of all races. Of all walks of life. Instead, the no campaign has successfully divided Australians. Who is left to suffer from this? The oldest living continuing culture on earth. A culture that Australia is blessed to have.

We will rest. We will recuperate. We will cry. We will suffer. We will grieve. But we will not stop fighting.

In my, and every other Indigenous Australian’s belly, a fire burns. A fire that cannot and will not be extinguished. Time after time, white politicians have told us no. But we did not let that stop our fight for self-determination. For a fair go. For reconciliation. For equity.

We never stopped. This referendum is a devastating blowback. But it won’t stop our fight. Much to the abhorrence of conservative, white Australia.

Voice, Treaty, Truth. Three simple words. Three words we will see come into fruition. We won’t stop telling the truth. We won’t stop fighting for treaty. We will have a voice, whether or not we are listened to.  Much to their dismay.

This result does not mean sovereignty was ceded. It does not mean we are non-existent. We will come back louder than ever. Just wait and see.


Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio
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