Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

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The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, also known as the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, the First Nations Voice or simply the Voice, was a proposed Australian federal advisory body to comprise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to represent the views of Indigenous communities.

A referendum to establish the Voice was held on 14 October 2023. It was unsuccessful, as a majority of voters both nationwide and in at least four states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) voted against the Voice. Had it succeeded, the Australian Constitution would have recognised Indigenous Australians in the document by prescribing the Voice, which would have made representations to the Parliament of Australia and executive government on matters relating to Indigenous Australians. The government would then have designed the specific form of the Voice, which would then have been implemented via legislation passed by Parliament.

Under the government-endorsed design principles of the First Nations Referendum Working Group (aka Referendum Working Group, or RWG), the membership of the Voice would have been selected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country, with an enforced gender balance at the national level. It remains legally possible however for the Voice (or alternative proposals) to be introduced by legislation rather than by amendment to the Constitution. However, the current government has previously stated they will not seek to do this in the event of a No vote.

The proposal for the Voice was formally endorsed by Indigenous leaders with the Uluru Statement from the Heart, delivered at the First Nations National Constitutional Convention in 2017. The statement formally petitioned the people of Australia to support a voice to parliament in order to address First Nations disadvantage through giving those communities a greater influence on laws and policies that affect them. The concept was rejected at the time by the Liberal-National Turnbull government.

In October 2019, the Liberal-National Morrison government discussed an "Indigenous voice to government" which would be legislated but not enshrined in the Constitution. A co-design process organised by Ken Wyatt was completed in July 2021 proposing for local and regional voices and a National Voice. While the Morrison government committed to implementing the recommendations of the report, no legislation was passed between the release of the report in July 2021 and the election in May 2022.

Following the 2022 election which saw the Albanese Labor government elected, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged that a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined Voice would be held within his term of office. In March 2023, the prime minister released the design principles of the Voice and confirmed that a referendum would occur in 2023. The process was overseen by Linda Burney, who succeeded Wyatt as Minister for Indigenous Australians. Both parties in the Peter Dutton-led Liberal-National Federal Opposition announced their opposition to a national Voice, whether legislatively or constitutionally implemented.

Breakdown of voting by state and territory
State/territory Yes No Invalid Participation
rate (%)
Votes % Votes %
New South Wales 1,818,502 40.34 2,689,500 59.66 54,826 TBA
Victoria 1,583,559 44.96 1,938,676 55.04 36,079
Queensland 851,823 31.05 1,891,239 68.95 24,982
Western Australia 495,526 36.23 872,078 63.77 12,122
South Australia 357,998 35.22 658,604 64.78 10,688
Tasmania 136,119 40.45 200,365 59.55 3,803
Northern Territory, Christmas Island and Cocos Islands 37,970 39.48 58,200 60.52 775
Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay Territory and Norfolk Island 158,104 60.79 101,992 39.21 2,237
Total for Commonwealth 5,439,601 39.27 8,410,654 60.73 145,489
Results Obtained a majority in no state and an overall minority of 2,971,053 votes. Not carried.

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