"We ain’t licking our wounds today, we’re sharpening our spears. See the colour of our skin? That’s our pride and joy."
Yothu Yindi's powerful hit Treaty was played on repeat across the country this afternoon as Black Out host and proud Nuin man Nooky chose to use music to react to Australia's No decision.
On Saturday, Australians went to the polls to decide on whether to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first custodians of the nation and to enshrine a voice to parliament and the executive in our constitution.
As of Sunday afternoon, the AEC count had less than 40% of Australians willing to accept the modest ask from First Nations people, leading to a period of soul searching for the country.
triple j’s Blak Out program opened with a powerful statement as Nooky spoke from the heart. Reflecting on his bitter disappointment at the result, he spoke of feeling that he had let his people down and that over the last 24 hours he had taken heart and strength from connecting with his family.
“October 14 was a moment in history where a dark cloud will forever cast a shadow. I feel like I let down my elders. I feel like I let down the future generations. Last night was the most overt, unconcealed manifestation of racism I have ever experienced in my whole life. Yesterday they said our pain and our suffering continues. The disadvantage and the inequality continues. But so does our love, our happiness, our strength and our pride.”
“Last night, amongst the torment, I found solace when I sat down with my eldest daughter Olivia. It’s our kids we need to be there for right now, but it’s them who hold the power. The power to heal. And the power to bring change. When I look at them, I see the hope that hasn’t died.
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“In this moment, I’m broken, but I’m not defeated and regardless of yesterday’s outcome, there was always work to do. It’s just now clear just how much work there is to do. I’ve seen the word ‘defeat’ get thrown around a lot this morning. I rang my Nan Colleen back home in Nowra and I was ashamed. But Nan was still Nan. She was yarning away and laughing and she told me to keep on going. Hearing my Nan hold herself with such composure in this moment, I didn’t feel defeat. See, defeat- that’s when we stop having joy, stop having hope. That’s when we stop loving and caring for ourselves and this land of ours. That’s when we stop being strong and being proud of who we are and we all know that would never happen.
“We could never lose. We haven’t lost a thing. We all knew what the outcome was going to be. We all know the reality that we live in. It’s just now more apparent. We ain’t licking our wounds today, we’re sharpening our spears. See the colour of our skin? That’s our pride and joy and they can never change the river of our souls.
“Our people are the most caring, welcoming, loving, generous, strong and resilient people and in the darkness, we hold the light. We always have. We’re the oldest culture on earth and we have survived the white man’s world. We did not give up this land and the planting of the union jack never changed our lore at all.
“It’s that message of hope and survival that you’re going to hear for the next hour. And trust, it isn’t a mistake. We’re gonna repeat this message until it rings true. We will not sit in silence. They will hear us. We rejoice as a people and light our sacred fire in the face of their broken promises. Treaty Now.”
Listeners were left to ponder the importance of the song as it repeated for an entire hour, absorbing the gravity of where this weekend now leaves the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.
Briggs, who went viral with his ‘far enough’ sketch across social media in the lead up to the referendum approached the result with a simple post on Sunday morning “Oh? It ain’t over mfkrs!”
Oh? It ain’t over mfkrs! pic.twitter.com/YJKIiy3aFl— Senator Briggs (Biblically Accurate) (@Briggs) October 14, 2023
Earlier on Saturday evening near the closing of polls he said: “Whatever happens; there’s a line in the sand. We’ll remember who stood up and did the most. There was always going to be work to be done, now we’ll know where to spend our energy.”
Australia’s music industry has been strongly supportive of The Voice proposition, from John Farnham granting the use of his iconic hit You’re The Voice, to new songs by John Williamson, A.B. Original, Gangajang, Paul Kelly, Painters and Dockers and more. Artists like Jimmy Barnes and Paul Kelly copped criticism on social media from No voters as the campaign heated up.
Shepparton’s Now and Forever concert brought people together for an amazing night of solidarity, while musicians also gave up their time to play at the Walk For Yes, which attracted over 200,000 supporters from around the country.
Nooky also sat down with Michael Parisi for his podcast Vinyl Tap recently, talking about Indigenous excellence and his thoughts on The Voice.
A statement from a range of Indigenous organisations and elders was released following the referendum result and reads in full:
Recognition in the constitution of the descendants of the original and continuing owners of Australia would have been a great advance for Australians. Alas, the majority have rejected it.
This is a bitter irony. That people who have only been on this continent for 235 years would refuse to recognise those whose home this land has been for 60,000 and more years is beyond reason. It was never in the gift of these newcomers to refuse recognition to the true owners of Australia. 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.
For more than six years, we have explained to our nation why the Voice was our great hope to achieve real change for our families and communities.
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.
We thank the Prime Minister and his government for having the conviction to take this referendum to the Australian people at our request. We thank him for his advocacy and all parliamentarians who did the same, including members of the Teals, Greens, Nationals and independents who stood by us. We pay particular respect to the Liberal parliamentarians who bravely advocated for the voice.
We also thank our fellow Australians from all sectors of the community, including multicultural, faith, professional, business, creative and sporting organisations. To the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets, knocked on doors and made over a million phone calls, thank you for your love and support.
Our deep chagrin at this result does not in any way diminish our pride and gratefulness for the stand they had the moral courage to take in this cause now lost. We know we have them by our side in the ongoing cause for justice and fairness in our own land.
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.
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. Talk not of recognition and reconciliation. Only of justice and the rights of our people in our own country. Things that no one else can gift us, but to which we are entitled by fact that this is the country of our birth and inheritance.
Re-gather our strength and resolve, and when we determine a new direction for justice and our rights, let us once again unite. Let us convene in due course to carefully consider our path forward.
We are calling A Week of Silence from tonight (Saturday 14th October) to grieve this outcome and reflect on its meaning and significance. We will not be commenting further on the result at this time.
We will be lowering our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to half-mast for the week of silence to acknowledge this result. We ask others to do the same.