Superannuation funds have lamented the failed Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum on the weekend, as investors that supported the Yes campaign reiterate their continuing reconciliation plans.
A majority of Australians (60.7 per cent) voted against constitutional amendment on Saturday, with 39.3 per cent of voters in favour. The ACT was the only state or territory to record a majority Yes result.
HESTA and REST, two of the first funds to publicly back the Yes campaign, both said that their commitment to equity for First Nations people will remain unchanged despite the result.
“HESTA remains steadfast in our commitment to equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We accept the gracious invitation contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart,” a fund spokesperson told Investment Magazine.
REST conceded that the Voice’s result was not “what we’d hoped for on behalf of our members”, but said there’s more work to be done.
A REST spokesperson said: “We will continue to work towards improvements that deliver better retirement outcomes for our members, including the estimated tens of thousands who identify as First Nations peoples.”
Australian Ethical’s superannuation chief Ross Piper called for the industry to “continue with commitment and practical actions to support reconciliation” and tap into the power that the financial sector has in changing the current conversation.
“Investors have an important role to play in raising awareness of relevant issues, along with implementing actions,” he said.
“These may include supply chain management, building internal awareness and understanding of cross-cultural considerations for First Nations staff and members, investment choices and continued advocacy on issues where possible.”
All of the top ten superannuation funds by AUM currently have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which provides businesses with frameworks and principles to reconciliate with the First Nations community. However, many of the big funds chose to watch on the sideline as the Voice debate unfolded earlier this year.
In terms of industry groups, Industry Super Australia (now a part of the Super Members Council of Australia) issued its support for the Voice earlier this year, whereas ASFA encouraged superannuation community members to get educated about the proposals.
SMCA declined to comment, since it was not established for most of the Voice debate and did not take a public stand on the referendum.