An Australian and an First Nations flag flying in the Australian capital Canberra.

Australia to Hold Referendum on Indigenous Representation

Posted by Speakeasy News > Monday 26 June 2023 > In the News Shine Bright Collège Shine Bright Lycée

Australia will hold a referendum later this year on a change to the Constitution that would give Indigenous Australians a greater voice in the legislature.

If approved, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice would be a consultative body which would advise lawmakers on issues affecting Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who lived in Australia for tens of thousands of years before British colonisation, make up about 3.2% of the 26 million Australian population. Australia is the only former British colony, which never signed a treaty with the indigenous people who lived on the land that they colonised. Until 1967, and a previous referendum, Aboriginal Australians were not even counted in the national census as citizens.

The referendum was requested by over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Delegates  at the First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017. That produced the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the Australian People, which reminds the Australian nation: "Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs... This sovereignty... has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown."

The Statement reminds the nation of past wrongs like the Stolen Generations and the continued problems today, stating that, "Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet." It ends with a call for a referendum to give the First Nations a say in laws which affect them.

The referendum must be held between two and six months and is expected to be between October and December. The law approving the referendum was passed with a large majority in both houses of parliament, but polls indicate that a yes vote is not a foregone conclusion. There are opponents to the proposition, including some from with in the First Australian community, who generally feel the proposal doesn't go far enough, or is simply a continuation of colonisation. Opponents from the outwith the First Australian community tend to object to what they see as one community being favoured over others. 

Announcing the vote, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said, "We recognise the risks of failure — but we also recognise the risk of failing to try."

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?"

This is a fairly simple written explanation of the principles of the Voice, which would be consultative and be made up of members chosen but the First Nations communities. It would be designed to included all groups, be gender and age balanced.

And this short government video is clear and easy enough from A2.

This is a public service announcement in favour of a yes vote to the referendum, produced by

You'll find more on First Australians in Shine Bright 4e File 8 Into the wild outback, in Speakeasy Files 3, and Shine Bright Terminale File 22 Landscape of History.

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