On October 14, 2023, Australians will vote in a referendum about whether to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice would be an independent and permanent advisory body to the Australian Parliament and Government.
It would give advice on national matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Voice referendum (or National Voice) is different to the South Australian First Nations Voice to Parliament.
On referendum day (October 14), voters will be asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' on a single question. The question on the ballot paper will be:
“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
The proposed law that Australians are being asked to approve at the referendum would insert the following lines into the Constitution:
"In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.”
The Constitution can only be changed by ‘double majority’ approval at a referendum. This means a majority of voters in at least four states, and a majority of voters nationally, must vote ‘yes’ in favour of the change.
If the referendum succeeds, constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians through a new Voice will be permanent. But Australia can continue to perfect its new Voice partnership using the parliament to make any legislative changes needed over time.
The referendum is not about the details of the Voice model. The details – what the Voice will look like, how the Voice will operate, and how Indigenous people will choose their Voice members – will be set out in legislation by the Parliament. The details do not go in the constitution, they belong in legislation so an Indigenous Voice can change and evolve as we all learn, and our partnership continues to develop.
Why is the referendum important?
Australia has been talking about recognising First Nations peoples in the Constitution for more than a decade. The idea has been considered by many people, including through parliamentary committees, public forums and consultations, constitutional, legal and policy experts, and First Nations leaders and communities.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a statement resulting from 15 years of engagement and conversations with over 1200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, that calls for constitutional recognition. In 2017, at the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru, almost all the 250 delegates endorsed constitutional recognition through a guaranteed Voice. This was the most important consultation process of First Nations peoples that Australia has seen. A change to the Constitution requires a referendum. With the operational details of the Voice set out in legislation, changes can be made from time to time as required.
What would the Voice do?
The Voice would give independent advice to the Parliament and Government.
The Voice would speak on issues that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Voice members would make sure everyone knows what they are doing and saying.
The Voice would work with groups and organisations that are already in place.
How would the Voice be set up?
The Voice would be set up in line with some principles. These were agreed between a First Nations Referendum Working Group, made up of First Nations leaders from across Australia, and the Government.
First Nations people would choose who is in the Voice. They would base this choice on what they want for their communities.
Members would be from a mix of:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
The Voice would:
• empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community voices
• be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
• value all views and voices
• be informed by culture
• include young people.
What happens if the referendum passes?
If the referendum passes, there will be a consultation process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the broader public to settle the Voice design.
Legislation to establish the Voice will then go through standard parliamentary processes to ensure adequate scrutiny by elected representatives in both houses of Parliament.
Once Parliament approves legislation to establish the Voice, the legislation comes into effect and the work to set up the Voice begins.
How do I prepare for voting in the Voice referendum?
Enrol to vote
You’ll need to be enrolled to vote in the referendum on October 14. Make sure your details are up to date on the Australian Electoral Commission.
Find out out more about the Voice, and decide whether you will vote Yes or No
Whether you are Yes or No leaning, or wanting to know more, get in touch with us at email@example.com with the subject line "Voice", or by clicking the button below.