The question the Parliament will now consider 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 simple question, a matter from the heart. Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our Constitution is the best chance this country has had to address the injustices of the past and move Australia forward for everyone, and the best way to do this is to give people a voice.
For 122 years our nation’s founding document has failed to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and their more than 65,000 years of continuous connection to this vast land. In order to update our Constitution we need to hold a referendum where every Australian will get to have a say on the proposed change.
This referendum will give Australians the chance to write a new chapter into our 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:
1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
2. 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;
3. 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.
This follows months of listening to the community and comprehensive consultation with the Referendum Working Group made up of Indigenous representatives, and assisted by some of the best legal minds in the country through the Constitutional Expert Group. These proposed amendments are constitutionally sound, and represent the best chance of a successful referendum.
Today the Referendum Working Group will also release further design principles for a Voice to Parliament. The Government will introduce the Constitution Alteration Bill next week and we hope to pass the legislation through the Parliament by the end of June, with the referendum to be held between October and December this year.
Constitutional recognition through Voice is an idea that came from the people, and this will be a decision made by the people, not politicians.
This referendum is an historic democratic opportunity for a unifying Australian moment. Every Australian will have the chance to vote for recognition and consultation. Recognition of the extraordinary privilege we have to share this continent with the world’s oldest continuous culture and stronger consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, meaning better decisions and better results as we work to close the gap.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
If not now, when? We have been talking about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in our founding document for decades – now we have the chance to do it. Let’s seize this moment, let’s take Australia forward, for everyone.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney
The proposed constitutional amendment is legally sound. We have received advice from a diverse range of constitutional experts including Professor Anne Twomey, Professor George Williams, former High Court Justice Kenneth Hayne, Prof Megan Davis and their advice was clear: the Voice will be empowered to make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government about matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It will not have a veto or grant special rights.
Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus
These sensible constitutional amendments get the balance right. They give voice to the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples right across the country.
Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy
Constitutional recognition through Voice is about giving our people and our communities a say in the policies that affect us. The 2023 referendum is the best chance we’ve ever had to create structural change that will deliver better outcomes for First Nations peoples. A Voice to Parliament, enshrined in our Constitution, will mean that our people are listened to and heard on the issues that affect us. The Voice will be a fearless source of advice and accountability, and it will make a practical difference.
Special Envoy, Senator Patrick Dodson