Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Voice to Parliament?
An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament would recognise the First Peoples of Australia in our Constitution. The Voice would be a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who would advise the Parliament and executive government on how a policy or a law would practically and culturally affect Indigenous people. A Voice is an opportunity to make policies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rather than for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Why do we need a Voice to Parliament?
A Voice will mean the Government will have better quality information about First Nations issues and concerns, delivered directly from communities themselves. Information from communities will result in better quality laws and policies, better targeted investment and ultimately better outcomes for First Nations people across many sectors.
Basically, Indigenous Australians who know their communities well will talk directly to politicians in Canberra and offer practical solutions about the unique challenges faced by those groups, including those relating to jobs, health, education, and justice.
Far too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to experience lower quality of life and social and health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. Despite their good intentions, governments and Parliaments have previously been unable to come up with effective and lasting solutions to this inequity. A Voice to Parliament will ensure that Indigenous people affected by decisions made about them can directly advise politicians about what really works in their communities. The Voice won’t grant First Nations people extra rights - but it will allow them to be heard.
Why do we need a referendum?
The Voice should be embedded in the Constitution for two reasons:
To constitutionally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of this land.
The constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been supported by Prime Ministers of all political persuasions since John Howard in 2007. Recognition is a simple statement of fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were the first people here and form the oldest continuing culture on earth. A Voice to Parliament is a practical way to achieve this recognition in the Australian Constitution.
So that the body can’t be shut down by future governments.
The principle of Indigenous representation will be enshrined in the Constitution. The details of the model will be legislated by Parliament. They might need to change over time, as we as a country change over time.
The need for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body to government has been supported by both sides of politics for decades. There have been five previous advisory bodies – but all have been defunded or disbanded after a change of government. The Voice would recognise the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s history, but importantly would also mean that the body couldn’t be shut down by future governments.
Enshrining the principle of the Voice, but not its mechanics, ensures that as we as a country change over time, so too can the Voice. It would be wrong to put all the details in the Constitution - it would mean we couldn't adapt and improve the Voice over time as we do other consultative bodies in Australia. Senior constitutional lawyers like Mark Leibler and Anne Twomey have said that all that is important in the referendum is to know the scope of the power being enshrined, and that the function of that power should be left in the hands of Parliament.
As Senator Patrick Dodson has said:
"The 2023 referendum is the best chance we’ve ever had to create structural change that will deliver better outcomes for First Nations peoples."
"The Voice will be a fearless source of advice and accountability, and it will make a practical difference."
What will the question on the ballot paper be?
On the ballot paper, you will see:
“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 alteration?”
You will be asked to answer either YES or NO
In more detail, the proposed changes will be:
S 129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice:
- 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.
Where did the idea of a Voice come from?
The idea of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament has been around for decades - but the current version was developed in detail throughout consultation with thousands of First Nations peoples across the country, and finalised at the National Constitutional Convention held at Uluru in 2017.
This culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart - an open invitation to all Australians to walk together with First Nations peoples towards a fair and unified future.
The three aspirations of Indigenous Australians set out in the Uluru Statement from the Heart are:
- a right to be consulted about decisions which affect them.
- a right to truth telling
- a right to treaties.
You can download a copy of the Statement here:
What is Constitutional recognition?
Constitutional recognition is a statement of fact in our Constitution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were the first inhabitants of this land. It's a simple statement, and goes a long way towards acknowledging the true history of our nation.
Who will be the members of the Voice?
Members of the Voice would be First Nations people elected by First Nations communities, and from regional Voices or representative bodies, if they exist. It would be important for the proposed national Voice to be made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people chosen by their communities to speak for them at the national level.
There may be times when it could be useful for the Voice group and the Australian Government to work together and choose extra people to join the Voice if it was felt that additional members with specific skills or knowledge would be useful.
Several possible models for the makeup of membership of the Voice have been proposed. These details do not have to be finalised for a decision to be made on whether we should have a Voice. The details of exactly who will make up the Voice will be decided by Parliament. They may need to change over time. It would be inappropriate to include those details in the Constitution.
What powers will the Voice have?
The proposed Voice would only be able to give advice to the Parliament and the executive, on matters that directly affect Indigenous Australians. It would not have the power to make or veto laws, and it would not advise the Judiciary.
What is the NIAA?
What is the NIAA?
The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is an Australian Government agency responsible for whole-of-government coordination of policy development, program design, and service delivery for Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islander people, who are grouped under the term Indigenous Australians.
It has a primary function of administering programs which support Indigenous Australians in the area of health, education, housing, employment, longevity, disability and other issues. The agency is also responsible for the promotion of reconciliation, the Closing the Gap strategy, and monitoring and evaluation of programs.
Will the Voice do the same thing as the NIAA?
The Voice would be quite different from the NIAA. It would not have the responsibility of program and service delivery or of grant making. It would be an advisory body, but a government agency.
The Voice will also be embedded in the Constitution, meaning that it can not be shut down by current or future governments.
There is so much disinformation in the media, how can I be sure that what I am hearing or reading about the Voice is true?
It is true that there is a lot of conflicting and confusing information about the Voice. It can be hard to know what is true and what is not true. To help voters find some assistance with disinformation on the Referendum process, the Australian Electoral Commission has established a Disinformation Register.
This website lists topics and campaigns that have been identified as promoting false information about the Referendum.
When will the referendum be?
The referendum will be held on Saturday 14 October 2023.
Details on voting can be found on the AEC website.
How can I support the Voice?
There are many ways that you can support the Voice to Parliament campaign, whether you're in Kooyong or another electorate.
- If you want to volunteer for the Kooyong Voice to Parliament campaign, sign up here!
- If you want to contribute to other like-minded organisations, check them out here.
- If you want to buy a Kooyong Votes Yes t-shirt, click here.
- If you want to put up a sign order here