It has been suggested by the Albanese government to include in the constitution a provision for an Indigenous voice to be heard in parliament. This provision would be put to a vote in a referendum.
Here is what we are aware of at this time.
What exactly has taken place up to this point?
As a result of the passage of the referendum bill, the official campaign on what the government claims will be a straightforward referendum question for all of us to vote on has begun, and the language for the change to the constitution in its final form has been decided.
This begs the question:
A Bill to Change the Constitution in order to Recognize the First Peoples of Australia and Create a Voice for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples is Currently in the Legislative Process.
Do you agree with the modification that has been suggested?
The following are the components of the proposed amendment to the Constitution:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices 129 Chapter IX: Recognition of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples
In acknowledgement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ traditional position as Australia’s First Peoples:
1. An organization that will be known as the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Voice will be established;
2: The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Voice has the ability to make submissions to the Parliament of the Commonwealth and to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on issues that are relevant to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples;
3: The Parliament shall have the power, pursuant to this Constitution, to establish legislation regarding matters relating to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers, and procedures. This power shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
It is anticipated that the vote will take place during the months of October and December 2023.
In order for the referendum to be successful, it needs to receive a majority of yes votes in a majority of states. If the vote is successful, the Voice will be designed by legislation after it is passed via parliament.
The Referendum Machinery Act has been revised by the government, and as a result, the procedure has been brought into conformity with the electoral regulations that regulate federal elections. In order to reduce the amount of misleading information that circulates around the referendum process, the reforms will include restrictions regarding the disclosure of campaign donations and public funding for political campaigns.
The official pamphlets for both the “yes” and “no” campaigns have been made available online by the Australian Electoral Commission, which has sparked a heated discussion on the content of the documents.
The pamphlets include reasons for both the “yes” and “no” cases, each of which was prepared by a politician who either supported or opposed the measure while it was being debated in parliament.
It is essential to keep in mind that the pamphlets have not been fact-checked by a third-party organization or an independent source. The AEC has published them, but it has no responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of the information they contain.
A website has been established by the Australian electoral commission in order to assist voters in comprehending the constitution and the referendum. The Australian Electoral Commission will monitor campaign money and is operating a register of disinformation.
What exactly is this “voice to parliament,” and how exactly would it function?
The voice would offer guidance to the Australian parliament and the government on issues concerning the cultural, spiritual, and financial well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Native title, employment, housing, as well as the community development program, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and heritage protection are some examples of the types of issues that would be subject to mandatory consultation by the government and parliament.
Conservative critics have highlighted concerns that the voice could generate court challenges; nonetheless, the majority of senior constitutional lawyers have either spoken out forcefully in favour of the voice or rebutted concerns about the legal significance of its assertions.
According to Linda Burney, the minister for Indigenous Australians, the voice gives Aboriginal and Islander people a way to directly advise all levels of government about laws as well as policies that affect their life. “It’s about drawing a line on poor outcomes from long legacy of failed programs as well as broken policies. Also, listening to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.
“Matters such as incarceration and the removal of children. Outcomes regarding housing, health care, and education. This voice is about making sure that whatever occurs in the federal parliament is going to be a positive move forward not only in terms of us as a nation but also in terms of the life outcomes for First Nations people in Australia.
What kind of structure would the voice have?
According to the referendum working group, which provides advice to the government, the following concepts will be utilized to guide the design of the voice:
Its role will be to offer impartial advice to both parliament and the government.
It will be decided by persons from First Nations based on the preferences of the communities in the area.
It will be inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and will reflect their perspectives.
It will be gender balanced, community-led, respectful, inclusive, culturally knowledgeable, and culturally informed of gender issues. It will also involve children and teenagers.
It will adhere to the principles of accountability and transparency.
In conjunction with pre-existing organizations and conventional frameworks, this voice will be heard.
The Calma-Langton co-design report suggested that the national voice should consist of 24 members, with gender parity being assured in the underlying structure.
According to the fundamental model, there should be two representatives from each state, as well as the Northern Territory, the ACT, and Torres Strait. As a result of the one-of-a-kind requirements of distant places, an additional five members would be appointed to represent such regions. These additional members would include one representative each from the Northern Territory, including Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, as well as New South Wales. The sizeable number of Torres Strait Islanders who now call the mainland their home would be adequately represented by an additional member of the council.
The terms of membership would be for four years, and one-half of the membership would be chosen every two years. Each member might serve for a maximum of two terms in a row without being replaced.
The members of the voice would vote every two years to nominate two co-chairs, each of whom would be of a different gender than the other.
How might local and regional voices be incorporated into the discussion?
The co-design study suggested a total of 35 regions, each of which was divided into state and territory. It would be up to the communities and governments of each state and territory to decide these things together.
Voices from the local and regional levels would advise not only all levels of government but also the non-government sector and businesses.
In the study, their functions, the manner in which they would be organized, and the values that they would uphold are outlined. These values include cultural leadership, community-led design, and empowerment.
According to what was stated in the report, there would be “a clear, as well as a two-way flow of advice and communication” between these individuals and the national voice.
What will not have Indigenous representation in Parliament accomplish?
The Australian government and the Australian parliament would be the recipients of advice from the national voice. It would not be responsible for the delivery of services, the management of government money, the acting as a clearing house for research, or the mediating of conflicts between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations.
How would disagreements be settled once they arose?
According to the report, there should be an agreed-upon list of people who have the necessary experience to carry out such assessments, and at least one of reviewers must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
It was recommended that the relevant minister, along with two respected and independent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons, maybe the ones who made the final decision.
People who are interested in learning more about this topic can read the Uluru statement from the heart, which is the final report of Indigenous voice co-design process, and the final report of the joint select committee submitted on constitutional recognition.