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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

A guide from the ANU Library

About the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice proposal

The proposal for the referendum enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution has its roots in decades of campaigning. In particular the 2008 apology to the Stolen Generations by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd created a new discussion within the community and Australian Labor Party. He spoke of the suffering of the Stolen Generations, their descendants and their families expressing deep sadness and profound grief for the suffering and loss caused by their mistreatment.

Over successive years National Agreements on Closing the Gap have sought to provide a means to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to determine, drive and own desired outcomes, alongside all governments, to overcome the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians. 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice was proposed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the outcome of the First Nations National Constitutional Convention. The 250-member convention was a bringing together of the Referendum Council, comprised of 16-members,  that had met with over 1,200 people in meetings held across the country. On 26 May 2017 the delegates presented the statement to the nation. 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for “… the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling about our history.” 

The Australian Labor Party was elected to government on 21 May 2022. It had committed to hold a referendum as a key policy in the election campaign.

The legislation to establish a referendum is currently before the Commonwealth Parliament. Progress of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) Bill 2023 including links to the bill, proposed amendments, speeches and explanatory memorandum can be found here.

Information on progress of the legislation will be updated regularly.

There are a number of State and Territory Commonwealth initiatives to establish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice authorities. 

  • The Australian Capital Territory’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body was established in 2008
  • The Victorian First People's Assembly of Victoria was established in 2019
  • The South Australian Parliament passed the First Nations Voice Bill 2023 on Sunday 26 March 2023.

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