Australia's rejection of the Voice referendum stirs anger at lost opportunity for this student from country NSW.
Even though the writing has been on the wall for a long time now, Saturday’s referendum result makes me angrier than I expected. It has nothing to do with the multifarious issues with the campaign and all the rest of it. Instead, it’s because of my home and my family.
I’ve lived most of my life in the regional NSW city of Wagga Wagga, the largest city in the Riverina. It was no surprise to me that the Riverina overwhelmingly voted No. Even amongst my own family, I was the only one who voted Yes.
I feel ashamed, embarrassed, and embittered. I love regional Australia and it will always feel like home. I find the people to be friendlier, more open, and warm hearted in many ways.
But after the result, that just feels like a facade.
There was an opportunity to [forge] a future that isn’t based on the conflict of the past. Now, that chance is gone.
Because for me, this is a rejection that is rooted in a lack of compassion and understanding. A once-in-a-generation chance has passed. Now, we have to forget what might have been and attempt to find new roads to creating systemic change.
In many ways, it wasn’t the failure of the Riverina to vote Yes that stung most. No-one in my family did either.
I never asked my family why they voted no or what their thinking was. I’ve always just let it slide and moved along, accepting that we would always just think differently about some things. After all, I never really entertained any hope of changing their minds.
I’ve never been one to participate in activism or even really speak about my own views. It’s always difficult to speak up when your views go against the majority. And it’s been my privilege to never have to speak up because things have always been relatively good for me.
But today, I wonder if I should have done more.
It is an enormous privilege to live in Australia. I consider myself extremely lucky. I feel a deep connection with Australia and the land itself. Yet that connection is founded upon a history of violence. My family’s history in Australia goes all the way back to the Third Fleet and, as with most European settlers, is steeped in the dispossession of Indigenous Australians.
There was an opportunity to demonstrate that we really care about reconciliation and forging a future that isn’t based on the conflict of the past. Now, that chance is gone.
I felt proud when I voted yes even though the result would likely be no, that my family was voting no, and that ultimately, nothing would change. Because, on some level, I hoped that the people of Australia could recognise the chance that was being offered and that we might take an important step forward. If anything, we’ve taken a few steps back.
I will always love my family, my hometown and Australia itself. But today, I am disappointed in them all.