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Albanese urges a ‘new way forward’ as Australia votes No

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the nation on referendum night.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the nation on referendum night. Photo: Getty

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the country needs a “new way forward” on reconciliation as Australia resoundingly voted against an Indigenous Voice to Parliament on Saturday.

The progressive count on Sunday morning shows an overwhelming 60.25 per cent of Australians voting No nationally, versus 39.75 per cent for Yes.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has declared none of Australia’s six states with a majority Yes vote, based on ballots counted so far.

The state with the highest percentage of No votes was Queensland (68.47 per cent), followed by South Australia (64.39 per cent), WA (63.46 per cent), Tasmania (59.2 per cent), NSW (59.18 per cent) and Victoria (54.54 per cent).

The ACT was the only jurisdiction to vote Yes with 60.85 per cent.

Downcast Yes campaigners in Ashfield, Sydney, as the votes are counted on Saturday night. Photo: Getty

Albanese, red-eyed and emotional, addressed the nation on Saturday night to accept the result and said it was time to come together and “find a different way to the same reconciled destination”.

“And while there has been talk in recent times about division, let us now co-operate to address the real division,” he said.

“The real division is one of disadvantage — the division that is the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in life expectancy, in educational opportunity, in rates of suicide and disease.

“The gap that separates Indigenous Australians from the right to make a good life for themselves.”

Albanese said the referendum would not split the country.

“Because this moment of disagreement does not define us, and it will not divide us. We are not ‘yes’ voters or ‘no’ voters,” he said.

“We are all Australians, and it is as Australians, together, that we must take our country beyond this debate without forgetting why we had it in the first place.”

But he recognised that for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the campaign had been a “heavy weight to carry” and the result would be “very hard to bear”.

“So many remarkable Indigenous Australians have put their heart and soul into this cause, not just over the past few weeks and months but through decades, indeed lifetimes, of advocacy,” he said.

Week of silence

Following the heavy defeat, Devastated First Nations leaders endorsed a week of silence.

Yes23 campaigner and filmmaker Rachel Perkins posted a statement to social media from Indigenous Australians who supported the voice referendum.

It spoke of a bitter irony that people who had been on the continent for 235 years refused to recognise those whose home it had been for 60,000 years.

“It was never in the gift of these newcomers to refuse recognition to the true owners of Australia,” the supporters said.

“The referendum was a chance for newcomers to show a long-refused grace and gratitude and to acknowledge that the brutal dispossession of our people underwrote their every advantage in this country.”

The statement, which was endorsed by members of the Uluru Dialogue, thanked supporters of the ‘yes’ campaign including voters, volunteers and the prime minister.

“Now is not the time to dissect the reasons for this tragic outcome,” they said.

“Now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequences.”

Many Indigenous people, including Greens senator Dorinda Cox, replaced their social media profile pictures with an empty black tile to demonstrate how unseen they felt.

“Today is a very hard day,” Senator Cox said.

“I want to acknowledge elders, mob and allies who have fought so hard and changed the conversation for the better.

“First Nations people have stayed strong and resilient in the fight, for generations, there is formidable strength here.”

Dutton: The right outcome

Opposition leader Peter Dutton and Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price respond to the results. Photo: Getty

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said late on Saturday that “this is the referendum that Australia did not need to have and the ‘no’ result was the right outcome for the nation.

“The proposal and the process should have been designed to unite Australians, not to divide us.”

Dutton renewed his commitment by a coalition government for a royal commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities and an audit into spending on Indigenous programs.

‘No’ campaigner Warren Mundine said advocates against the voice proposal had engaged with the community.

“I knew that we could win every state, and that we could have a chance to get the majority vote,” he told ABC.

“The reality is that we went and spoke to the people out there.”

Independent senator and ‘no’ campaigner Lidia Thorpe said she was not surprised by the referendum outcome.

“I’m not surprised that we’ve got ‘no’ votes coming out strongly, because people either don’t know what it is about or, that in terms of the black sovereign movement, we don’t want to go into the constitution,” she said.

-with AAP

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