Deciphering the Voice

Today, Saturday, October 14, marks a historic day for Australians as we head to the polls. Unlike traditional elections, this vote seeks to decide on the recognition of a First Nation’s voice in the constitution.

Historically, referendums have faced challenges in Australia. Of the 44 proposed constitutional changes, only eight have gained approval.

The most recent referendum in 1999 saw Australians decide on republicanism. Less than 40% of Australians voted in favour of that proposal, leaving us a part of the Commonwealth.

Whether you are voting yes or no – it is important you head to the polls and have your say. If you are unsure on what way you are voting, we have this handy cheat sheet that might hopefully clear things up for you.


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament is a proposed committee made up of Indigenous Australians from around the country who would advise the government on matters affecting their community.

Members of the Voice would be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in local areas and serve for a fixed period.


It is a big change to the Australian Constitution – the biggest in our history if it is passed. Those who are firmly in the ‘No’ camp say it is legally risky, with unknown consequences. They also contend it would be divisive and once it is voted in – there would be no getting rid of it.

The ‘No’ camp also is concerned that the Voice covers all levels of Executive Government, meaning there is no issue beyond reach for the Voice once it is legislated.

The biggest issue being spruiked by those who are against the change is the unknown. The AEC official Yes/No handbook explains, “No details have been provided on how members of the Voice would be chosen or how it would operate. Australians are being asked to vote first before these details are worked out.”

There is also a progressive ‘No’ camp who have their own reasons not to support the Voice to Parliament. They believe the Voice doesn’t go far enough and lacks power in its advisory role. Many people on this side of the fence believe, rather than a Voice to Parliament, there needs to be a treaty established.


Although it is a big change to the Australian Constitution, many countries around the globe have implemented guarantees that Indigenous voices are heard.

According to an article by Politics and International Relations Professor Michael Leach, the closest parallels to the proposed Voice to Parliament lie in Canada and Taiwan through the Canadian Indigenous Advisory Committee and the Taiwanese Council of Indigenous People that advises their respective governments.

The genesis of the Voice to Parliament came directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders via the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution,” is the powerful statement.

The ‘Yes’ camp also maintain that it will create meaningful change for First Nations people in crucial sectors such as health, education, and employment. They claim it will help governments effectively drive that change.

To read the full YES|NO referendum pamphlet, or visit:


Eligible voters yet to cast their ballots should visit a polling booth today. To ensure accurate counting, voters should write “yes” or “no” on their ballot papers. The official AEC guidelines discourage ticks, crosses, or other markings.


For referendums to succeed, a “double majority” is required. This denotes both a national majority and a favourable majority in at least four of the six states.


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