This Referendum Result Will Not Stop Us!

24 Oct 2023

A Statement from the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association  

“On Saturday the 14th October 2023 we all witnessed the news of an unequivocal ‘NO’ vote to the ‘Voice to Parliament’ with heavy hearts, knowing that the nation has denied us, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people, the right to have a direct say, politically, on the matters that affect our lives. The proposed constitutional changes was part of the Australian Governments commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) continues our unwavering dedication to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples despite this shattering news that we have taken a week to digest – the ramifications of the referendum result will continue to reverberate within our Communities for many years to come. The hurt and sorrow from this result will take time to overcome but we will move forward and continue to rise.

With this resounding No vote, we ask ourselves – how do we continue to live and work in nation where it is known that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples die 8.2[1] years earlier than non-Indigenous people. We know that the gap is widening, and we know that the healthcare system is not always a safe space for us, regardless of whether we are clinicians or patients. 

The Medical Training Survey data tells us that 55% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainee doctors have experienced and/or witnessed bullying, discrimination and harassment, including racism, compared to 34% of all trainees nationally. We have achieved population parity with Indigenous students entering university to study medicine, but we can’t always keep them, which begs the question: what sort of environments are our medical workforce training in?

Now we add the complexity of a ‘NO’ vote to these statistics, with the knowledge that 13 YARN had to bring in additional staff to support callers before and after the referendum. The No campaign seemed to tap into the general public’s unconscious bias and racism leading to an increased incidence of racism causing many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to feel unsafe and stressed.  

The health impacts of this increased stress on compromised individuals can exacerbate chronic conditions and we ask ALL doctors to be extra vigilant when treating Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander patients. We also remind our members to take care of yourselves and one another during this historical and challenging time. This has been a big toll on us all.

Our Passion and dedication to our cause has never waned, and we have a renewed commitment to ensure that we can change health outcomes. We will continue to advocate for better representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across all sectors but especially across the health sector. We will continue to push for a culturally safe workforce across our training and work spaces, to ensure our members and patients feel safe. We will keep advocating for equality to help close the gap and provide a better future for the next generation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have experienced many setbacks in the past but we are still here, we are strong, we are proud, we are resilient and we walk in the footsteps of our elders and ancestors who forged the way to getting us to where we are today.

Today we recommit to the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart and we continue to call for substantive reform to help realise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights. 

We also ask that our partners and allies stand with us and re-new their commitment to the Uluṟu statement, committing to working together for change in the wake of the referendum.

The status quo is not acceptable.  Join us as we continue to lead for positive change.

  • See support resources if you are struggling around the rhetoric on the Voice to Parliament. 
  • See AIDA’s media release on our public support of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. 
  • See AIDA’s policy position on the Voice to Parliament. 


Sacha Shipway 
Director of Communications and Engagement  
0498 100 297 

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors in Australia. Our purpose is to grow ethical and professional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors who will lead and drive equitable and just outcomes for our people. 

24 Oct 2023