Indigenous children are suffering racist bullying as a result of The Voice, a Senate hearing was told last night in a damning speech from Australian Human Rights Commissioner June Oscar.
Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, told the hearing that the ‘No’ campaign had fed into racist rhetoric and its effects were now being felt by Australia’s Indigenous communities.
“I have already heard reports of our children facing racism at school because of the outcome, that their peers have interpreted ‘no’ as a rejection of them,” she said.
“This is not acceptable, and so far from the truth. This referendum has made it abundantly clear we live in a time when it is becoming increasingly hard, if not impossible, to have reasonable and safe public discussions.”
Oscar said the rejection of the referendum had been felt “far beyond the vote”.
“I need to stress the real and palpable pain that so many Australians are feeling,” she said.
“The referendum was intended to unite us, but instead through the months of campaigning, we have been caught in intense conflict.”
Oscar also said it was clear truth-telling processes were needed given the “lopsided” final result, saying the worst of the misinformation claimed Indigenous people in remote areas did not support The Voice.
“The vote has now proven unequivocally that we do,” she said.
“It is an important piece of truth-telling that should inform the agenda moving forward.”
The sentiment echoes recent calls from The Australia Institute, whose referendum exit-polling showed that nine in 10 Australians want political advertising laws improved by the next federal election.
“Misinformation and disinformation swamped the referendum campaign with arguments that often had little to do with what Australians were being asked to vote on,” Executive Director of the Australia Institute Richard Denniss said following the survey last week.
“In Australia, it is perfectly legal to lie in a political ad – and it shouldn’t be.”