Referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a referendum will be held between October and December 2023 to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
On 23 March 2023, the Prime Minister, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP announced the constitutional amendment and question that will be put to the Australian people at a referendum later this year. The amendment and question were developed in consultation with the First Nations Referendum Working Group.
The proposed constitutional amendment was introduced into Parliament through a Constitution Alteration Bill on 30 March 2023. The Bill was referred to the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum, which heard from 70 witnesses and published 270 submissions. It published its report on 12 May 2023, recommending Parliament pass the Bill without amendment.
On 31 May 2023, the Constitution Alteration Bill was passed by the House of Representatives without amendment. It will now be debated in the Senate.
You can follow progress on the Constitution Alteration Bill here. Once the Bill has been passed by the Parliament, it will be submitted to voters at a referendum in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution.
On the 21 May 2023, the Australian Government launched an information program to help inform Australians about the Voice referendum. The program encourages Australians to get ready for a conversation about the Voice by visiting Voice.gov.au.
There are a wide range of resources available on the website to help you learn more about the Voice, including dedicated First Nations resources, translated resources, and accessible formats such as Auslan interpreted videos.
The question to be put to the Australian people at the 2023 referendum 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 a new section into the Constitution:
"Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
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.”
The Voice design principles
The Prime Minister also released the principles of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. You can read the detailed design principles here.
In summary, these principles are:
- The Voice will give independent advice to the Parliament and Government
- The Voice will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of local communities
- The Voice will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth
- The Voice will be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed
- The Voice will be accountable and transparent
- The Voice will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures
- The Voice will not have a program delivery function
- The Voice will not have a veto power.
These principles were developed by the First Nations Referendum Working Group and endorsed by the Australian Government.
If the proposed law is approved at the referendum, there will be a process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the Parliament, 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.
If you have any questions please contact Referendum@niaa.gov.au
For more information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, visit Voice.gov.au.