VOICE TO PARLIAMENT
The Voice to Parliament is a constitutionally protected body of First Nations Peoples which will advise the Federal Parliament and the executive government, and be able to influence laws and policies at the point they originate.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the First Nations Voice to Parliament?
The First Nations Voice to Parliament is a change to the Australian constitution called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart that would provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a say on laws and policies that affect them.
In order to change the Australian Constitution, the people of Australia have to vote in a referendum.
What is the Uluru Statement from the Heart?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for
- A First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australia Constitution, and
- A Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making and truth-telling between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Makarrata is a word from the language of the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land. It means two parties coming together after a struggle, to heal the wounds of the past, and to live again in peace.
A Makarrata Commission would not require any constitutional change. It can be set up under legislation
What is the history of the Uluru Statement?
The Uluru Statement was delivered in 2017 at the foot of Uluru in Central Australia on the lands of the Anangu people. It was the culmination of 13 Regional Dialogues, a series of meetings coordinated by the Referendum Council, that were held around the country where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates considered options for constitutional change. The Dialogues also provided an opportunity to discuss, understand and prioritise options for recognition. The Referendum Council was appointed in 2015 by the Federal Government to advise on progress toward a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.
What is The Voice to Parliament referendum wording?
The referendum wording will read as below:
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?
Learn more here.
What is the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament constitutional amendment?
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.
What are the aims of the constitutional amendment?
Reference: Constitutional Enshrinement of a First Nations Voice. Issues Paper. September 2022
- It constitutionally enshrines the body (the Voice)
- It constitutionally enshrines the primary function of the body (the Voice) to make representations to the Commonwealth Parliament and the Executive in the development of laws and policies that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- It leaves the further detail of the design of the Voice, including its composition, additional functions, powers and procedures, to be determined in the future by the Parliament.
How will The Voice work?
Below is the set of principles that describe how the Voice will work which has been agreed to by the First Nations Referendum Working Group which is an advisory group to Government set up in August 2022.
The Voice is a body that will:
- provide independent advice to Parliament and Government
- be chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities
- be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- be empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed and gender balanced, and include youth
- be accountable and transparent
- work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.
The Voice will not have a program delivery function, or a veto power.
The structure and role of the Voice would be decided by Parliament through legislation, with members to be chosen by First Nations people.
Additional information can be found in the Final Report Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Interested in a deep dive of the constitutional issues?
The Indigenous Law Centre (ILC) is part of the Faculty of Law at UNSW. It was established in 1981 and is the only Indigenous law research centre in Australia. It has published a number of discussion papers.
Constitutional Enshrinement of a First Nations Voice. Issues Paper. September 2022 looks at some of the some of the issues that a constitutional amendment should address and some of the issue yet to be resolved.
The Referendum Question (September 2022) looks at the constitutional and legal requirements of a Voice to Parliament referendum question.
Finalisation of the Voice Design (September 2022) reviews the question of how and when to finalise the design of the model of the Voice.
How will the Voice to Parliament become a reality?
The Voice to Parliament requires a change to the Australian constitution.
What is the Constitution?
It is a general law for Government that cannot be revoked or changed, except by the people of Australia voting at a referendum. The Constitution provides limits for Government. It is a rule book for all the participants within our democracy. Find out more here
What is a referendum?
When a change is proposed to the State or Commonwealth Constitution, a referendum is held to gauge the opinion of voters about the proposed change. You have to be enrolled to vote in order to vote in a referendum.
How does a referendum work?
- Bill passes in Parliament
Before a referendum can be held, a bill outlining the proposed changes to the constitution must be passed by both houses of the Federal Parliament, or alternatively passed twice in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
- A Writ is issued
The Governor-General issues a writ for a referendum which, like an election must be held on a Saturday. It can be held with an ordinary election but can also be held separately.
- Australians vote
The earliest a referendum can occur is the first Saturday falling two months and 33 days after the bill is passed. The latest is the final Saturday falling before six months has elapsed since the bill was passed.
How does a referendum succeed?
A change to the constitution will occur if the proposal receives the support of a majority of voters in a majority of states.
There have been 44 referendums since 1901, of which only eight have succeeded. The most successful attempt to change the Constitution was the 1967 referendum in which over 90 per cent of the population voted to allow the counting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Census, and the federal government to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
How do I enrol to vote?
You are eligible to enrol to vote if you are
- you are an Australian citizen, or eligible British subject,
- aged 18 years and over, and
- have lived at your address for at least one month.
If you are 16 or 17 you can enrol now so when you turn 18 you'll be able to vote.
Find out more here
Voice to Parliament Resources
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
How it will work, timeline, updates
FAQs, history since 1770
Reconciliation Australia is the lead body for reconciliation in Australia.
Uluru Statement: A Quick Guide
Parliamentary Library research paper outlining the process leading to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Constitutional implications.
Robert French: 'The Voice - A step forward for Australian Nationhood'
Robert French AC is a former Chief Justice of Australia. This article is based on a presentation to the Exchanging Ideas Symposium of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, the New South Wales Bar Association and New South Wales Law Society. Mr French gratefully acknowledges the co-authorship of the last section of this paper, ‘The Voice – High return, low risk’, with Professor Geoffrey Lindell, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Adelaide.
Murray Gleeson: 'Recognition in keeping with the Constitution: A worthwhile project’
Steps to constitutional recognition of Indigenous since 2015, History of the constitution. Design of the First Nations Voice called for by the Uluru Convention
Constitutional Enshrinement of a First Nations Voice
Constitutional context, proposed amendment, issues