17 October 2023

Cape York divided as nation says No at referendum

| Matt Nicholls
Start the conversation

Local school teachers Bri Morgan and Jen Young were handing out information on how to vote yes at Cooktown’s polling booth on Saturday.

INDIGENOUS voters in the Cape and Torres Strait were strongly in favour of constitutional recognition and a Voice to Parliament, but those living in Cooktown and Weipa have outnumbered them in opposition.

Every Aboriginal and Torres Strait community in our electorate – except for Coen – voted Yes.

In some places, like Hope Vale, it was three Yes votes for every No ballot paper.

However, Cooktown and Weipa voters were firmly in the No camp.

Of the 1387 people who cast a ballot at Cooktown, 996 (71.8%) people voted No.

Pre-poll numbers were not available for Weipa, however, the data was similar, with 73.3% of people voting No.

Across Leichhardt, the No vote was 65.3% at the time of writing.

The national No vote was 60.6% and Queensland’s No vote was at 68.8%.

Kowanyama mayor Robbie Sands, who voted Yes, said he was disappointed by the result.

“It’s not just the result but the margin … it wasn’t even close,” he said.

“It was almost 70-30 in Queensland when you round the numbers up. It will take some time to process.”

Indigenous leader, academic and voice proponent Marcia Langton said the nation would be worse off from Saturday’s result.

“It will be at least two generations before Australians are capable of putting their colonial hatreds behind them and acknowledging that we exist,” she said.

“It’s very clear that reconciliation is dead. A majority of Australians have said no to an invitation from Indigenous Australia, with a minimal proposition, to give us a bare say in matters that affect our lives, advice that doesn’t need to be taken by the parliament.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Sunday: “The Australian people have spoken.

“And their voice tells me they’re not ready. Not yet .

“I respect that. They never get it wrong.

“What I’m confident all Australians do agree with is the need to improve the wellbeing of First Nations peoples.

“We are a generous nation.

“And we extend our hearts and our hand to all.

“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.”

No campaign leader Warren Mundine said: “We made it quite clear from the beginning, it’s not a celebration.

“People are happy because they worked hard on the campaign and they were out there copping abuse and everything like that. But for us, it’s about tomorrow.

“We’ve got to reach out to the yes campaign, we’ve got to reach out to those Australians who didn’t vote for us … and come together because we’ve got to fix these issues once and for all.”

Interstate voters left in the lurch by AEC

TOURISTS and FIFO workers in the Cape were turned away from the polling booth on Saturday, unable to vote in the referendum.

There was mass confusion at the Weipa and Cooktown voting centres as those from outside of Queensland were told they were unable to cast a vote.

In Cooktown, a noted tourism town, lines formed early in the morning as AEC staff struggled to cope with the demand of out-of-town electors, including a big group of army personnel.

Weipa also faced several problems, with a number of new locals and FIFO workers told they could not vote as they were enrolled outside of Queensland.

“Weipa is a mining town with a lot of interstate workers and it’s appalling that the Australian Electoral Commission wasn’t prepared for this,” one contractor said in a message to Cape York Weekly.

Rio Tinto employees at Amrun were also caught out.

Crews 2 and 4 in particular were impacted by the election because the remote booth that turned up in Weipa earlier this month was also timed with those crews working across the river.

“We asked Rio Tinto if we could get on a bus and go and vote this morning, but we were told we would face disciplinary action if we left Amrun,” a worker said on Saturday.

Saturday’s mess concludes another horror election period for those living in remote Australia, with the AEC once again failing to understand the geography and challenges of places like Cape York.

Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said he would be raising the issues with the AEC.



YES 60% | NO 40%


YES 66.5% | NO 33.5%


YES 47.8% | NO 52.2%


YES 32.3% | NO 67.7%

Cooktown pre-poll

YES 25.7% | NO 74.3%

Hope Vale

YES 75.4% | NO 24.6%

Horn Island

YES 63.2% | NO 36.8%


YES 51.4% | NO 48.6%

Lockhart River

YES 66.1% | NO 33.9%


YES 55.8% | NO 44.2%

Tamwoy (Thursday Island)

YES 74% | NO 26%

Thursday Island

YES 72.4% | NO 27.6%

Thursday Island pre-poll

YES 68.5% | NO 31.5%


YES 26.7% | NO 73.3%

Remote booth 1

YES 74.4% | NO 25.6%

Remote booth 2

YES 76% | NO 24%

Remote booth 3

YES 73.5% | NO 26.5%

Remote booth 4

YES 52.7% | NO 47.3%

Remote booth 5

YES 52.7% | NO 47.3%

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.