On 14 October 2023, Australians will go to the polls to vote in the first federal referendum since 1999. In this historic vote, the nation will decide whether to amend the Australian Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (the Voice).
While this isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a partisan issue, we’ve seen a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. We firmly believe everyone should be going to the ballot with an informed stance, so we’ve collated a list of helpful resources below to help you with your pre-referendum reading.
It’s essential to acknowledge this continent always has been, and always will be, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land and that sovereignty was never ceded. The Giant Leap team will be voting ‘YES’ in support of the Voice as a key step in recognising 65,000 years of continuous Indigenous connection to the land, water and skies, and toward meaningful self-determination for First Nations peoples.
It is also important to note that there are over 250 unique Indigenous nations and hundreds of thousands of individuals, with a wide range of views. A recent YouGov survey found that the vast majority (80%) of indigenous Australians support the Voice. In addition, many Indigenous organisations including the Northern Territory Land Councils and the Kimberley Land Council, and peak service organisations such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association have also indicated their support.
While our team is clear on how we’ll all be voting, an essential tenet of democracy is diversity of views and freedom of debate. When making your own voting decision, we urge you to listen to and deeply consider a range of First Nations voices and consider which ideas resonate. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the following resources.
The Voice would be a permanent advisory body that would give advice to the government about the issues that affect First Nations peoples. It will be independent of Parliament and its representatives would be selected by First Nations peoples.
The goal of the body would be to assist the government in making clearer and better-informed decisions regarding First Nations communities, drawing from lived experience. The Voice would give First Nations peoples a say on the policies and laws that impact them.
The Voice’s role would be enshrined in the Australian Federal Constitution. The amendment would also recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the First Peoples of Australia.
While the Federal Parliament would have a mandate to act on the Voice’s recommendations, Parliament would have the final say on whether it proceeds on the basis of those recommendations. The Voice will not have a ‘veto power’, as it is solely an advisory body.
The Voice stems from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, drafted and agreed on at the 2017 First Nations Constitutional Convention. The Uluru Statement is the largest consensus of First Nations peoples on a proposal for substantive recognition in the nation’s history. It created a unified voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the continent.
The Voice is the first of three key pillars established by Uluru Statement: Voice, Treaty and Truth.
The second pillar, Treaty, calls for a process of agreement-making which acknowledges the historical and cultural importance of Indigenous Australians, formally recognising sovereignty and that country was never ceded.
The third pillar, Truth, calls for a comprehensive truth-telling process aimed at exposing and recognising the full extent of injustices perpetrated against First Nations peoples, with the aim of fully understanding Australia’s colonial past and present and its continuing impacts.
You can read the Uluru Statement in full here.
The actual referendum question is as follows (straight from the Australian Electoral Commission):
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s resources on The Voice. Primarily, the AHRC’s booklet (PDF) on understanding the human rights framework of The Voice, and its one-page primer on the subject. Both resources note the following:
The Australian Electoral Commission’s primer on how the referendum will work. This also includes information on postal voting and other the formal Yes / No case booklet (PDF) submitted by Parliamentarians.
We believe it's crucial that all Australians listen to and deeply consider the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when informing their viewpoint on this referendum. Here is just a starting point to kick start your reading on First Nations voices:
We also believe fairness in the media is integral to a functioning democracy. We’ve identified several media outlets that have fairly represented both sides of the debate in some form.
At Giant Leap, we believe that taking steps to acknowledge Australia’s colonial past and present and actively addressing the structural inequality faced by First Nations peoples is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Centuries of colonial violence have resulted in worse health and education outcomes, shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality rates, and disproportionate incarceration rates and instances of deaths in custody for Indigenous Australians. Decades of policy interventions have not improved these outcomes (and have often made things worse) and, as highlighted by the latest Closing The Gap report, some measures are trending backwards.
The time has long since come for meaningful self-determination for our nation’s First Peoples and we believe the Voice will improve government decision-making through enabling Indigenous Australians to directly influence the policies and laws that affect them.
A key aspect of our investment thesis is aimed at empowering people and ensuring good health and wellbeing. We invest in companies that rectify or improve these markers of development and quality of living around the world, and support informed policy making at the government level that will help improve outcomes for all.
With over 80% of First Nations peoples supporting the Voice, we will be voting YES as a next step in the process toward genuine truth-telling and self-determination. We firmly believe that members of First Nations communities are best placed to advise the Federal Government on policies that affect them, and enshrining the Voice in the Constitution will empower the body to provide frank and fearless advice, free from the fear of becoming a political football.
We would also like to acknowledge that, while the Giant Leap team are advocates for what we see as this positive change, none of our team members are Indigenous Australians. We would also like to acknowledge the inherent validity of the views held by the First Nations peoples who do not support a ‘YES’ vote, as well as the anger, apathy, and mistrust of government surrounding this debate.
We hope you exercise your essential democratic right when the time comes and that you make sure your vote is an informed one.
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