By HARRY CLARKE
INDIGENOUS residents of Cooktown “devastated” by the Voice to Parliament’s rejection are considering boycotting a planned community re-enactment of Captain Cook’s 1788 landing on Australian shores, while others say they were against “splitting the country with colours” in the Constitution.
Having visited the remote township of Pormpuraaw and Australia’s largest Aboriginal community, Yarrabah, ahead of the referendum, the Caller this week travelled to the Cape York towns of Cooktown and Hope Vale to gauge its residents’ reactions to the proposal’s defeat.
Lengthy interviews were done with Cooktown Indigenous leader Shane Gibson and his uncle, Hope Vale elder Edgar Gibson, who are traditional owners from the Bulgun Warra tribe in the Cooktown area.
Shane Gibson works as an Indigenous Partnerships Officer with the Cook Shire Council but made clear to the Caller he was speaking as a resident and not a local council representative.
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Ivan Deemal is another elder of Hope Vale, who is the founder and operator of the Elim Beach Campground on the stunning and stretch of Cape York coastline about 30 minutes’ drive from the Hope Vale township.
He established the business in 2000 in partnership with his father, highly respected Aboriginal leader Eddie Deemal, who passed away in 2021 aged 95.
Ivan Deemal, like his father, served on the Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire Council, and has been involved with various other business ventures in the Hope Vale district and Cape York region throughout his career.
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Hope Vale residents recorded among the country’s highest average Yes votes in Saturday’s Voice to Parliament referendum, with more than 75 percent in favour of the proposal.
Deemal said constitutional recognition would have helped Indigenous people “feel like they’re part of Australia”, but that he believed the Voice to Parliament would of have created an unnecessary extra layer of bureaucracy.
The Caller sought comment from prominent Voice advocate Noel Pearson, who is originally from Hope Vale, as well as the Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire Council mayor, but has not yet received a response.
On Sunday, the day after the referendum, the Caller approached the Michael family of Hope Vale (father Nathaniel, mother Lueanne and son Gardijan), who were spear and net fishing alone on an isolated beach south of Cape Bedford.
Lueannae said members of her family had voted against the Voice.
“I just thought it was going to split the country with colours,” she said.
“I just voted No because I thought everything was fine the way it is.”
Lueanne said she “didn’t really think much of it at all” when asked about the Indigenous disadvantage gap.
She said she had lived in Hope Vale for 21 years, having moved to the community from Yarrabah aged 15 and before meeting her husband, Nathaniel.
“It is a happy, peaceful community. That’s why I came up for school holidays and stayed,” she said.
“I’ve got my home, work and family, so it turned out to be good. We have three boys.”
Lueanne said she was employed locally as a disability support worker, while Nathaniel works in administration for the Youth Start Allowance program.
Asked what she loved about the country around Hope Vale, Lueanne replied, with a laugh, “if you wasn’t here, we’d be the only three on the beach”.