On Friday 28 October 2022, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the Attorney General met with the Referendum Working Group (the Group).
The Group started the meeting by acknowledging the death of Cassius Turvey, 15-year old Noongar boy who passed away in tragic circumstances in Perth this week.
The Working Group welcomed progress to date in preparing for the Referendum and acknowledged the announcement in the Budget of a number of measures directly related to delivering on the Government’s election commitments on the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart including:
- $50.2 million in funding to the Australian Electoral Commission to commence preparations for the Referendum; and
- $5.8 million to commence work on establishing an independent Makarrata Commission to oversee processes for agreement-making and truth-telling, as part of the Government’s overall $27.7 million election commitment.
The Group discussed the importance of working to ensure there is a broad understanding of the referendum and its significance for all Australians. They discussed the specific roles of the Government, First Nations groups and the broader community in working towards a successful referendum.
The Working Group provided advice on a range of issues relevant to the delivery of the referendum. The Group acknowledged the significance of this being the first referendum held in the 21st century. The Group agreed it was important to modernise the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act in order to bring it into line with the Electoral Act.
The Working Group also discussed the draft Terms of Reference for the Constitutional Expert Group and provided direction on an initial range of issues for the Group to consider. The first meeting of the Constitutional Expert Group, which will be co-chaired by the Special Envoy and the Attorney-General is scheduled to take place later on 28 October.
Ahead of the next Referendum Engagement Group meeting, the Working Group discussed a range of issues emerging in the public debate noting overall there remains broad support for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Working Group discussed how to engage with other key stakeholders in the coming months.
The Working Group agreed to reconvene in coming weeks.
Members of the Constitutional Expert Group
- Professor Megan Davis
- Mr Noel Pearson
- Professor Asmi Wood
- Professor Anne Twomey AO
- Scientia Professor George Williams AO
- Professor Greg Craven AO
- Professor Cheryl Saunders AO
- Mr Kenneth Hayne AC KC