The referendum result is a profound disappointment to us all

Despite this setback the work of reconciliation is needed now more than ever.

Reconciliation Australia has been part of the long process which led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the simple and modest proposition rejected tonight.

As we grapple with this weekend’s outcome, we must also grapple with the ugly acts of racism and disinformation that have been a feature of the debate despite regular calls for respectful engagement.

All Australians must ask ourselves whether this is a standard we are comfortable with.

While the results are devastating, they are not the first setback to the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This is a familiar story and one that has never deterred Indigenous Elders and leaders to be a voice for change. We pay homage to their courage and example. The fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue.

Reconciliation Australia is buoyed by the enormous contributions to the Yes campaign by the tens of thousands of ordinary Australians who spanned political beliefs and who volunteered their time and support, who walked for recognition, and who repeatedly and patiently explained the Voice and its benefits to Australia.

This weekend, as a nation we stumbled on our reconciliation journey. We must acknowledge and sit with this.

However, we are confident that in due course, the millions of Australians who voted Yes, and those who voted No but who are committed to better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will unite for a more just Australia.

Now is a time for healing.

While the work of reconciliation must continue, as we regroup, we will be led by how First Nations people wish to engage.

Clearly the imperatives for Indigenous Australians have not changed and the issues written about so eloquently in the Uluru Statement remain to be addressed.

Listening to the voices of First Nations peoples and providing opportunities for all Australians to learn from the vast knowledge and experiences which First Nations people possess, will ensure the best outcomes for this nation.

We are determined to continue the journey of reconciliation and remain confident that away from the noise and clamour of the recent campaign, millions of Australians will ensure that the status quo does not remain.

The powerful movement built over the past few months is not going away.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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