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The Voice to Parliament referendum: Frequently Asked Questions

The Voice to Parliament was identified as a key outcome in the Uluru Statement from the Heart (Referendum Council, 2017) with the purpose of formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia. There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the Voice, so it would not be surprising if some people feel confused or uncertain as we prepare ourselves for the upcoming referendum. This FAQ provides information about the referendum from a fact-checking perspective.

The Voice to Parliament referendum proposes to amend the Australian Constitution to include a new section that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia (Commonwealth of Australia, 2023). It also proposes to establish an advisory body recognised in the Constitution called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, which would advise parliament and executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

No. The amendment can be unmade in the same way it was made—through a referendum. In addition, under Section 1.1.3 of the suggested amendment, parliament can make laws about and change the structure of the Voice, affecting the way it works.

No. Any such arrangements would be the subject of a treaty, not the Voice.

No. All Australians already have the right to make representations to parliament.

No. The Voice will only make non-binding representations—to offer advice—to parliament and the government, neither of which are obliged to follow that advice. Claims that the Voice will have veto power over legislation and policy decisions are false.

Prominent legal experts (including Australia’s former Chief Justice) say the Voice will not slow down government decision-making. Parliament and the government will not have to wait for Voice advice before making decisions.

According to two different polls in 2023 (Huntley), 80–83% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support it.

The Voice will include members from each of the states, territories and the Torres Strait Islands, plus representatives from remote regions.

No. The separation of powers prevents the High Court from forcing policy outcomes or directly changing government decisions. It can only advise whether decisions were lawfully made rather than on their merits.

No. The Voice is not intended to prioritise one ‘race’ over another. The Voice completes the work of the 1967 referendum, which abolished all racial discrimination against First Peoples.

This Voice will provide a new way to inform the government on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. No existing bodies fulfil the role of the proposed Voice, and none provide the same degree of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation. For example, only 23% of NIAA staff are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (NIAA, 2022). In the current Australian Parliament, there are eight senators (of 76) and three members of the House of Representatives (of 151) who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, but like their non-Indigenous colleagues, they represent and act for all of their constituents—not only their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander constituents.

It remains to be decided what issues the Voice will advise on. Regardless, the advice it provides will not be binding on parliament or the executive government.

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