December 5, 2023

A vote in Australia that would have set up a body to advise Parliament on issues related to Australia’s Aborigines, the first known people to inhabit the continent, was soundly rejected by the Australian people last week, and the New York Times wanted you to feel bad about the loss by the “indigenous” side, which was always right (even though many indigenous Australians were also opposed to the measure).

Yan Zhuang, a reporter in the paper’s Australia bureau, treated the result as “divisive,” apparently because the wrong side won. She platformed the losing liberal side’s politically correct laments in Monday’s edition: “Indigenous Australians Say ‘Reconciliation Is Dead’ After ‘Voice’”:

The result of the referendum was decisive, and at the same time, divisive. It bruised Indigenous Australians who for decades had hoped that a conciliatory approach would help right the wrongs of the country’s colonial history. So, the nation’s leader made a plea.

“This moment of disagreement does not define us. And it will not divide us,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, visibly emotional, said this month, after voters in every state and territory except one rejected the constitutional referendum. “This is not the end for reconciliation.”

But that was a difficult proposition to accept for Indigenous leaders who saw the result as a vote for a tortured status quo in a country that is already far behind other colonized nations in reconciling with its first inhabitants.

The rejection of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament — a proposed advisory body — was widely anticipated. Nonetheless, it was a severe blow for Indigenous people, who largely voted for it. With many perceiving it as the denial of their past and their place in the nation, the defeat of the Voice not only threatens to derail any further reconciliation but could also unleash a much more confrontational approach to Indigenous rights and race relations in Australia.

“Although many Indigenous leaders and experts have said the repercussions of and trauma from colonization are the root cause of this disadvantage, governments — particularly conservative ones — have been resistant to this idea,” Zhuang wrote. “The remedy, some former prime ministers have said, is to integrate remote Indigenous communities with mainstream society.”

But Zhuang promptly neutralized such arguments with her choice of source:

“A significant chunk of the Australian public has been able to find legitimacy in that opposition to not to come to terms with that past,” said Paul Strangio, a professor of politics at Monash University.


The defeat of the Voice, Mr. Strangio said, is likely to emboldened the conservative opposition to continue with “the politics of disenchantment, of cultural and economic insecurity, that taps into that grievance politics.”

The online headline over her first story on the result made clear the paper’s disappointment: “Crushing Indigenous Hopes, Australia Rejects ‘Voice’ Referendum.” Zhuang took the snobbish angle that the “No” vote came from ignorance:

Experts and Indigenous leaders say that by and large Australians are aware of this [indigenous] disadvantage but generally do not understand it….

What would we do without experts to insult voters?

Ignored by the Times was a controversial open letter released by a part of the “Yes” camp that blasted the Australian citizenry for racism and ignorance and voting the wrong way, calling the “No” vote a “shameful act” — a public tantrum that made the “No” vote look justified in retrospect.