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Referendum defeat no obstacle to state-based bodies

Laine Clark and Jacob Shteyman -

While Australians may not be ready for an Indigenous voice to parliament, state and territory leaders have pledged to forge ahead with their own plans towards treaty and reconciliation.

The Indigenous voice referendum was defeated on Saturday, with all states and territories except for the ACT voting the proposal down.

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas said the Australian people have made it clear they are against a constitutionally-enshrined national voice, but he has no intention to shelve his state's legislated voice.

He stressed the SA voice, which will be implemented in 2024, did not propose to change the constitution.

"So it'll roll out and I think it'll be largely non-controversial," he told reporters on Sunday.

"It's very different in nature to what was being proposed yesterday in the referendum."

One Nation MP Sarah Game will introduce a bill to repeal the state's voice but without the government's support it has no hope of succeeding.

Despite calling to restart the state's stalled treaty process in opposition, the Labor government has kept it on hold as it focused on implementing its voice instead.

"We've seen other state governments pursue treaty, what we've committed to is voice," Mr Malinauskas said.

Queenslanders delivered the most emphatic rejection of the voice, with almost 70 per cent voting 'no', but the government will continue down its path to a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was confident that all Australians agreed that there was a need to improve the wellbeing of First Nations people.

"We are a generous nation. And we extend our hearts and our hand to all," she said.

"This wasn't the right way. I acknowledge the strong feedback.

"But that won't stop our efforts to bring justice, reconciliation and material improvement to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

Annastacia Palaszczuk says Queensland will continue working on a treaty for Indigenous people.

In a rejigged ministry unveiled in May, Leeanne Enoch - the first Indigenous woman elected to Queensland's parliament - will work towards a treaty in a new portfolio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships.

Historic laws to help shape future treaty negotiations were passed in May, with Queensland's colonial past to be examined by a Truth-telling inquiry likely to be undertaken over a three-year period.

The mood is sombre in some parts of the Northern Territory.

All three NT land councils have vowed to take a week of silence to grieve the loss.

"Now is not the time to dissect the reasons for this tragic outcome," the councils said in a joint statement.

"Now is the time for silence, to mourn and deeply consider the consequence of this outcome."

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said she was disappointed in the result but would continue to advocate for Indigenous Australians.

"We will continue to strive to ensure that their voices can be heard at all levels of government," she said on Monday.

NT Aboriginal Affairs Minister Selena Uibo said a new Treaty Unit will work on implementing the recommendations of the independent Treaty Commission after the government controversially abolished the body in February.

Victorian Deputy Premier Ben Carroll said his government would push on with negotiating a statewide treaty with the state's version of the voice, the First People's Assembly of Victoria.

"We have so much more work to do with our First Nations people," he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

"Whether it's health, whether it's incarceration rates, whether it's level of education attainment."

Tasmania is also working towards its own treaty and truth-telling process but Premier Jeremy Rockliff says there are currently no plans for the state to implement its own voice.

"I am the most senior Liberal in the country that has stood up and supported and advocated for a 'yes' vote," he told reporters on Sunday.

"I will always work towards supporting Indigenous Australians."


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