The Voice: How to achieve it.

Barney Zwartz, along with YES and NO voters, mourns after the Voice referendum, and looks ahead to what's next

I have never agonised more in my life about a vote than I did for the Voice referendum. Unlike those with enviable certainty who were able to conclude decisively, I found compelling arguments on both sides.  

I watched the news coverage on Saturday evening with a heavy heart, as I think many people did whichever way they voted. The triumphalism and jubilation usually seen after election wins was, rightly, entirely absent.  

Of course, we must feel for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who pinned so many hopes on the referendum…  

but here is the message I hope they might take from here: while the rejection of the Voice may well feel like a rejection of Indigenous Australians, it isn’t necessarily that. The question, of course, is where do we go from here? 

Reconciliation may be off the agenda for now, but closing the gap has become utterly front and centre of national discussion – and it must remain there.  

Jacinta Price was clearly the most prominent No campaigner, but the challenge for her now as the shadow minister for Indigenous affairs is to produce sensible and effective proposals that will actually help close the gap for the most marginalised especially in the remote communities. This equally is the challenge for the government and perhaps, after the divisions revealed by the campaign, bipartisan approaches can be developed that will carry the whole country. 

It is neither helpful nor true to stigmatise all of the 60% of Australians as racist for voting no, any more than to deride yes voters as complacent elitists or some of the insults that did the rounds on social media.  

Call me naïve, but I believe that most Australians genuinely want the best for Aboriginal Australians; they just differ about how to achieve it. 


On the road to referendum