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Saturday, November 6, 1999 Published at 11:22 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

No official recognition for Aborigines

The preamble officially recognised Aborigines as Australia's first people.

A proposed preamble to the Australian constitution appears to be doomed, with about 60% of people voting against it in Saturday's referendum

Australian referendum
The second question in the referendum on whether Australia should become a republic, the preamble sought to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, immigrants and Australia's democratic traditions in the constitution.

It said Australia's Aborigines were "the nation's first people" and praised for them "for their deep kinship with their lands."

Click here to read the proposed new preamble

[ image: The prime minister co-wrote the preamble]
The prime minister co-wrote the preamble
But despite having the support of all major parties, it was heading for a defeat in all states and territories.

Nationally, the preamble has the support of just 40% of voters, with more than 70% of the votes counted.

A failure will be a personal rebuff to Prime Minister John Howard who co-wrote its original draft and campaigned for a yes vote.

The preamble has received little attention, and has been overshadowed during weeks of intense lobbying.

However, Labor opposition leader Kim Beazley said Aborigines would not be too disappointed the preamble failed.

"None of the indigenous people it seemed to me particularly wanted the way in which they were referred to in the constitution.

"So I doubt whether they'll be feeling a deep sense of loss tonight."

Proposed preamble:
"With hope in God, the Commonwealth of Australia is constituted as a democracy with a federal system of Government to serve the common good. We the Australian people commit ourselves to this Constitution. Proud that our national unity has been forged by Australians from many ancestries; never forgetting the sacrifices of all who defended our country and our liberty in time of war; upholding freedom tolerance individual dignity and the rule of law; honouring Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, the nation's first people, for their deep kinship with their lands and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country; recognising the national building contribution of generations of immigrants; mindful of our responsibility to protect our unique natural environment; supportive of achievement as well as equality of opportunity for all; and valuing independence as dearly as the national spirit which binds us together in both adversity and success."

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