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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra on Oct. 16.DAVID GRAY/AFP/Getty Images

Australia’s Labor government will take time to plan how to pursue reconciliation with the country’s Indigenous people, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday, following the failure of a referendum to recognize them in the constitution.

Some 61% of Australians on Saturday rejected a referendum on whether to alter the constitution to recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people via an Indigenous advisory body, “the Voice to Parliament”.

Albanese said on Tuesday his government would find a new way to respond to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a 2017 document crafted by Indigenous leaders that had proposed the Voice as part of a plan for reconciliation with wider Australia.

However, he said his government would take some time to carefully formulate a response, listening to the country’s first inhabitants, and would respect the week of silence called by Indigenous leaders following the result.

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart was developed over decades. The expectation that the next step should be developed over days, is not respectful,” he said in parliament.

“We have to find a new path, a new path. And we’ll do that in a constructive, considered way.”

Albanese made his remarks in a series of fiery exchanges with opposition members during parliamentary question time as they quizzed the government on whether it would change tack following the failed referendum.

The centre-right Liberal Party opposed the Voice, and leader Peter Dutton has said the vote divided the nation.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the government would find other means to “close the gap”, referring to efforts to improve the lives of the country’s Indigenous people who make up 3.8% of the population but suffer from disproportionately high rates of suicide, poverty, domestic violence and imprisonment.

“The pursuit of closing the gap is no longer going to be achieved through constitutional reform, but we are completely committed to a process of reconciliation and we are deeply committed to a process of closing the gap,” Marles said.

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