Sunday, June 23, 2024

UN Human Rights Chief Expresses Disappointment Over Failed Referendum for Aboriginal Recognition in Australia

GENEVA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, expressed deep disappointment following the unsuccessful referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia. Türk also expressed confidence in the Australian people’s desire to work towards a new compact with Indigenous Peoples.

“I am deeply disappointed at the missed opportunity to officially recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia’s Constitution and give them a greater voice alongside the country’s Parliament,” Türk stated. He made these comments after the conclusion of the ‘week of silence’ initiated by Indigenous leaders following the referendum.

Despite the referendum’s outcome, Türk remained encouraged by the ongoing national conversation about the substantial levels of exclusion and disadvantage faced by Indigenous Peoples in Australia. He highlighted that polling data indicated strong support for this constitutional change among younger Australians, offering hope for progress in the future.

Türk called upon all Australians to embrace and reinvigorate the spirit of “The Uluru Statement from the Heart.” This statement outlines a comprehensive roadmap towards reconciliation for all Australians, emphasizing a positive climate grounded in human rights and devoid of hate, racism, and fear-mongering.

The UN Human Rights Chief expressed shock at the negative aspects of scaremongering, misinformation, and disinformation that became increasingly prominent during the campaign against the vote.

The referendum saw over 60 percent of Australian voters, as well as a majority in all six states, cast ‘No’ votes on proposals to amend the constitution, recognizing Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and creating a body for them to advise the parliament.

“While this particular referendum may have failed, the issues that it sought to address will not fade. Realizing rights to equality, self-determination, and participation of Indigenous Peoples in decisions that affect them, including through their self-governing bodies, remains central to Australia’s future and is reinforced by Australia’s international human rights obligations,” Türk stressed.

He urged political leaders to unite rather than divide Australians on this issue, intensify their efforts to reach out to the First Peoples of Australia, and work towards addressing their continued exclusion and disadvantage on a basis of full equality and mutual respect.

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