The Australian Government recently announced that there will be a referendum held between October and December 2023, called the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum. This referendum is designed to make changes to the constitution of Australia to better represent the country’s First Nations peoples.
We’ve put together a handy FAQ for young people looking to find out all details you need to know about the Voice to Parliament and referendum itself.
Info about the Referendum
What is a referendum?
- A referendum is a national vote on a question about a proposed change to the constitution, which is a legal document that sets the rules that underpin how Australia is governed.
How often has the Australian Constitution changed?
- Constitutional changes are extremely rare, with only 8 out of 44 constitutional referendums passed since federation.
Is it compulsory to enrol and vote in a referendum?
- It is compulsory by law for all eligible Australian citizens aged 18 and older to enrol and vote in referendums and federal elections. If you have enrolled previously for a Federal election you do not need to enrol again to vote in the referendum.
- If you are unsure if you are enrolled to vote you can check your current enrolment status here – https://check.aec.gov.au/
Is the Referendum the same as the 2017 Marriage Equality Postal Survey?
- No, the Marriage Equality survey was run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics via post. It was voluntary to complete and its results were non-binding, meaning Parliament did not technically have to pass marriage equality into law even with a yes vote.
- The Voice to Parliament Referendum however is run by the Australian Electoral Commission, is compulsory to complete and Parliament must carry out the results of the referendum and pass the proposed bill into law in the event of a successful referendum. Voting services are also very similar to Federal Elections, where Australians vote at polling places across the country alongside potential options for postal and early voting.
How are the results of the vote decided?
- Referendums in Australia are passed only when they have achieved a ‘double majority’ which means both a national majority i.e. more than half of all votes from across Australia, as well as a majority vote in at least four of the six States (not including the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, who count towards the national majority only).
- For a visual look at this see the AEC’s explainer factsheet.
When will the referendum be held?
- The referendum does not have a finalised date yet, however it will likely be held in late 2023.
Info about the Voice to Parliament
What is the Voice to Parliament?
- The proposed Voice to Parliament will be a permanent body established to enable ongoing representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to Federal Parliament.
- Members of the Voice would be selected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities rather than the Federal Government.
- The way that members will be chosen will be decided after the referendum through engagement with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
What is being proposed?
- Here is the exact wording of the Voice the Parliament that will likely be put forward in the Referendum:
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.