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The Voice Debate | Educational Series
Article One: About the Voice to Parliament.

The Voice Debate Educational Series Article One: About the Voice to Parliament

To contribute to authentic engagement on the debate, we will be providing an educational series around The Indigenous Voice, to help ensure members are well informed and educated on the referendum and to encourage members to deepen their engagement with their local First Nations communities.

About The Voice to Parliament

For the first time in over 20 years, Australians will vote on a change to the Constitution. On Monday 19 June, the Senate passed legislation to hold a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament later this year.

When the vote passed in the Senate, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said,

‘Today we can start a national conversation at the community level about what a Voice is, why it’s needed and how it will make a difference.’

IAP2 Australasia supports the Voice to Parliament and will contribute to authentic engagement on the debate by providing materials – such as this article – for our members to use to educate themselves on the Voice referendum. As Marion Short, CEO for IAP2 Australasia says,

The upcoming debate for the Voice referendum is a landmark opportunity to engage, be heard and understand the issues for all to help their decision making. IAP2 Australasia calls upon all sectors of our government and community to participate respectfully and respect the importance of each and every one of our voices.’

What is the Voice to Parliament?

The Voice would be a new body that would represent First Nations people from across Australia. It would give advice to the Australian Parliament and Government on matters relating to the social, spiritual and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Voice would provide permanent representation and recognition for First Nations peoples in the Constitution. The word ‘permanent’ is important because it means the body cannot be shut down by a future government.

Guiding principles 

  1. The Voice will give independent advice to the parliament and government.
  2. It will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples based on the wishes of local communities.
  3. It will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender-balanced and include youth.
  4. It will be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed.
  5. It will be accountable and transparent.
  6. It will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.
  7. It will not have a program delivery function.
  8. It will not have a veto power.

Why do we need the Voice?

Uluru Dialogue co-chair Pat Anderson pinpoints the central argument:

‘When you involve people you make decisions for, you make better decisions and a better allocation of resources that are required. This is fundamental to any democracy.’

The Voice will give First Nations communities a say in policy and legal decisions that affect their lives.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and bodies have called for a Voice for nearly a century and a First Nations Voice to parliament protected by the Constitution is a key element of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement was the outcome of consultation through dialogues with hundreds of First Nations Elders and community leaders across the country, culminating in a constitutional convention at Uluru.

How would the Voice be structured?

The details of how the Voice would operate will be decided by parliament after a successful ‘yes’ vote.

A report written by Professors Tom Calma and Marcia Langton proposes:

  • that the Voice would be made up of two parts: Local and Regional Voices and a National Voice.
  • the National Voice would have 24 members, be gender balanced and elected by the Local and Regional Voices. Individuals would serve four-year terms with a maximum of two terms allowed. Two full-time co-chairs would be elected by the members.
  • 35 Local Voices would represent districts around the country – two from each state and territory (16 in total); five from remote communities, two from the Torres Strait and one representing Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland.
  • the Local Voices would engage with local, state and federal levels of government.

Sources and further information

Discover more Advocacy Resources and updates from IAP2 Australasia.

Bookmark the IAP2A The Indigenous Voice page, to stay updated on the latest resources.