February 2, 2023

2023 Indigenous Voice Referendum

What we know so far about the Voice referendum
What you need to know
The Announcements
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What we know so far about the “Voice”

  • “The Voice” was a recommendation from the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. It calls for an advisory body to advise the government on Indigenous policy matters, including health, education, economic disadvantage and social matters.
  • Implementing “the Voice” would require a referendum as three lines would be added to the constitution (you can read them below).
  • The referendum is likely to be held this year, with Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney claiming it could be as soon as August.
  • While specifics are yet to be formally agreed upon by the government, the government says the basis for the detail will come out of the Indigenous Voice Co-design Report.
  • Indigenous academics Marcia Langton and Tom Calma authored the 272-page report to the Australian government in 2021. The report recommends a 24 person gender-balanced body administered by an Office of the National Voice. The core members would come from each state, territory, and the Torres Strait. An additional member would represent Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland, while a further five members would represent the remote areas of WA, QLD, NT, SA, and NSW. They would be elected by a yet to be specified “Local and Regional Voice”.
  • Members would serve four-year terms, on a staggered two-year rotation, with members limited to two terms.
  • The report states that the “Voice” would be a purely advisory body without the ability to provide funding, services, or government policy.
  • The official no campaign will be known as the “recognise a better way” campaign. It was launched on January 30.
  • Sitting on the board of the official no campaign will be Senator Jacinta Nanpijimpa Price, Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO, Ian Conway, Bob Liddle OAM, John Anderson AC, and Dr Gary Johns.
  • The no campaign calls for a sentence to be added to the constitution that recognises the indigenous people as traditional owners and the establishment of a Parliamentary all-party standing committee for native title holders.
  • The no campaign appears to agree in-principle with the intention of the Voice but would rather it be a statutory body and not a constitutionally enshrined body.
  • On the board of the yes campaign will be Danny Gilbert AM (co-chair), Rachel Perkins (co-chair), Michael Chaney AO, Andrew Fraser, Lachlan Harris, Tanya Hosch, Karen Mundine, Thomas Mayo, Tony Nutt AO, Noel Pearson, Catherine Tanna, Mark Textor.
  • Foreign donations will be banned for the referendum.
  • Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has written to the Prime Minister with 15 questions requesting further detail on the “Voice”, you can read them below.

The Voice to Parliament referendum questions

The proposed question:

“Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”

Proposed sentences added to the constitution:

  • There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government 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 the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Party stances

Labor - Federal and state party position is supportive of the “Voice”.

Liberal - Federal party yet to finalise position, has requested further detail before committing a stance. Dominic Perrottett has indicated the NSW state government is supportive of the “Voice”.

Nationals - Federal and state party position is against the “Voice”.

Greens - Federal and state party position is supportive of the “Voice”. Senator Lydia Thorpe has been critical of “the Voice” claiming a treaty should be prioritised first. Thorpe is also concerned that “the Voice” would cede indigenous sovereignty.

Teal independents - Crossbench MPs were briefed on the “Voice”  by the government in December. Teal independents support the “Voice”, with Member for Warringah Zali Steggall claiming that teals will have a “competition” to see which of their seats will get the most yes votes.

One Nation  - Federal and state party position is against the “Voice”

United Australia Party - Federal and state party position is against the “Voice”.

Peter Dutton’s 15 questions

1. Who will be eligible to serve on the body?

2. What are the prerequisites for nomination?

3. Will the Government clarify the definition of Aboriginality to determine who can serve on the body?

4. How will members be elected, chosen or appointed?

5. How many people will make up the body?

6. How much will it cost taxpayers annually?

7. What are its functions and powers?

8. Is it purely advisory or will it have decision-making capabilities?

9. Who will oversee the body and ensure it is accountable?

10. If needed, can the body be dissolved and reconstituted in extraordinary circumstances?

11. How will the Government ensure that the body includes those who still need to get a platform in Australian public life?

12. How will it interact with the Closing of the Gap process?

13. Will the Government rule out using the Voice to negotiate any national treaty?

14. Will the Government commit to Local and Regional Voices, as recommended in the report on the co-design process led by Tom Calma and Marcia Langton? 

15. If not, how will it effectively address the real issues that impact people's lives daily on the ground in the community? 

How referendums work in Australia

In Australia, a referendum is a compulsory vote by citizens over the age of 18 on a specific question or proposal put forward by the government. The process for a referendum typically involves the following steps:

  1. The government proposes a question to be put to a vote in a referendum. This question often (but not always) relates to a constitutional issue and must be approved by the federal parliament.
  2. The referendum question is then put to a vote of all eligible citizens.
  3. To be successful, a majority of voters in a majority of states (at least four out of six) and a majority of voters overall must vote in favour of the proposal.
  4. If the proposal is successful, the government will then take the necessary steps to implement the change.

There have been 44 referenda since federation. Only eight referenda have been successful, the last being in 1977.

The last referendum was held in 1999 on an Australian Republic. Since federation, there have been three plebiscites and one postal survey, the most recent of which was on same-sex marriage in 2017.

Uluru Statement from the Heart

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a document that was created and presented by Indigenous leaders in Australia in 2017. The statement calls for the recognition of Indigenous Australians as the first peoples of the country and for the establishment of a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations Voice to the Parliament.

The statement was developed through a process of consultations with Indigenous communities and leaders across Australia, and it reflects the collective aspirations of Indigenous Australians for greater self-determination and a more meaningful role in the political and decision-making processes of the country.

The statement also calls for a Makarrata Commission to be established, which would oversee a process of agreement-making and truth-telling between Indigenous peoples and the government. Effectively a treaty between indigenous people and the government.

The statement was presented to the Coalition government in 2017. The government’s response to the statement was that the Indigenous Voice to Parliament would not be included in the Constitution, but the government would consider other ways to give Indigenous Australians a greater say in the political process. Since taking office, the Labor government has changed course, now supportive of the “Voice”.

It's worth noting that the statement was widely supported by Indigenous Australians, but it has been met with mixed reactions from the broader community and political leaders.


Mentions of an “Indigenous Voice to Parliament” by Australian federal MPs in the last 12 months.

All data for this report is sourced from the GovConnex platform. GovConnex Research is available first to GovConnex platform subscribers

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