On Thursday, 29 September 2022, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Attorney General, and the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians met with the Referendum Working Group (the Group).
The Working Group will advise the Australian Government on implementing a referendum within this term of Parliament to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (the Voice) in the Australian Constitution.
The Working Group recognised that for decades there have been calls for First Nations Australians to have a stronger voice. This culminated in the Uluru Statement from the Heart – a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution in a meaningful way.
The Working Group also acknowledged the substantial amount of work that had been done to date by First Nations people leading to this point through various processes. Members were unified in their commitment to work together and with Government towards a successful referendum.
The Working Group discussed common principles for the Voice drawn from the work already done to define the Voice. Those principles identify the Voice as a body that:
- provides independent advice to the Parliament and Government
- is chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities
- is representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- is empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed and gender balanced, and includes youth
- is accountable and transparent
- works alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.
The Voice would:
- not have a program delivery function
- not have a veto power.
The Working Group discussed the processes for delivery of a referendum including the referendum question and how to ensure information about the referendum is accessible for all voters including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The Working Group members agreed with Government that the Attorney-General would establish a Constitutional Experts Group.
The Working Group agreed it is best practice to listen to First Nations people on matters that affect their lives, and the importance of continuing to work with First Nations peoples, as well as the broader community, in the lead up to referendum.
The Working Group agreed to reconvene shortly to continue its work.