The Voice to Parliament explained
Now we finally have a date for the Voice to Parliament referendum, it’s a good time to return to the terrific work our academic experts have done to explain the Voice to Parliament – as well as debunking some of the misinformation and disinformation we’ve seen so far.
Many of the questions we have addressed came from readers who took part in our Voice reader survey last year. In seeking answers, we’ve drawn from the nation’s preeminent constitutional experts, and prioritised First Nations perspectives.
The Australian constitution and the 220-plus page report of the co-design proposed Voice are not very accessible for those of us who don’t speak fluent policy. This is why the work we do at The Conversation is vital. Often it’s not only academic findings we need to translate for readers, but the very documents and policies that govern our lives.
So to prepare for the referendum, here are some of our articles addressing frequently asked questions. They will hopefully assist in making sure we’re as informed as possible when it’s our turn at the ballot box.
Helpful general information:
Pre-eminent constitutional scholar Anne Twomey reminds us of the referendum basics – what will it say on the ballot paper? What’s the proposed addition to the Constitution? How do I make my vote count?
Three non-Indigenous and Indigenous academics provide answers to ten key questions arising in the Voice debate, where the answers are often confused and distorted by misinformation.
We now know the wording of the Voice referendum and proposed constitutional amendment. But what may have been forgotten is how we got here in the first place – and why it matters.
How much detail should referendum proposals contain? And is there a risk that proposals that are too detailed, or too vague, can end up being rejected by voters?
As the referendum date approaches, campaigns may use misinformation to spark emotions in people to get them to vote a certain way. Here are some ways to spot dishonest claims and misinformation.
Because there are such a large number of multicultural groups in Australia, how they choose to vote in the upcoming referendum will be significant. This article explores how factors such as race, religion, and experience with racial interactions may inform how these demographics could vote.
Constitutional and legal explainers
Legislation is an unsatisfactory way to institute a Voice to Parliament because, among other reasons, it would make the body insecure and vulnerable to the whims of different governments.
Even though there is strong Indigenous representation in parliament, this does not guarantee Indigenous communities a say in laws and policies made on their behalf.
There have been concerns voiced about the First Nations Voice to Parliament having special powers, such as veto power. This will not be the case.
If the Voice to Parliament is implemented, what could their advisory role look like, and how will the government determine what advice they follow, and what happens if they don’t?
There has been a lot of misinformation and disinformation circulating in the lead-up to the referendum, with Linda Burney calling some of it out as “post-truth politics”. However, it’s technically not illegal for campaigns to be dishonest in their messaging, why is this?
This article explores the similarities and differences between the Liberal and Labour Parties’ positions on the Voice to Parliament, and the efficacy of their proposed designs.
Australia’s solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue provided the federal government with legal advice on the Voice to Parliament. This article provides a summary of Donaghue’s findings stating the Voice will be legally sound.
First Nations perspectives
Sana Nakata writes that the Liberal Party’s preference for the Voice to be purely symbolic is speaking to so-called “Howard’s Australia”, which just isn’t who we are anymore.
Although there are definitive “yes” and “no” campaigns, the arguments for and against the Voice do not just fall into these categories. Kelly Menzel explores the cultural and historical complexities behind many First Nations peoples’ apprehension or uncertainty around the proposed Voice.
This article explores the benefits of diverse collaboration with political discourse and policy development. When policies are informed by one group’s experiences and worldview there is the risk of racial biases. Failure to incorporate Indigenous perspectives has contributed to decades of misinformed, ineffective policy such as the Northern Territory Intervention.
A leading argument against the Voice to Parliament is that Treaty should come first. However, Pat Anderson and Paul Komesaroff write of the limitations of a Treaty alone, and how the Voice to Parliament can create a framework for the country to move forward in processes such as these.
One crucial question about the Voice to Parliament is how it will ensure voices from regional and remote communities, such as those in the Kimberley, are truly heard in Canberra.
In the Uluru Statement, alongside “Treaty” and “Voice”, there is also a call for “Truth”. How can non-Indigenous people in Australia facilitate truth-telling about the painful history of colonisation?
Oppressed and marginalised people are often the ones being asked how to address racism, instead of the people who perpetuate it. There is a real danger of the Voice to Parliament being expected to do the same thing. How can non-Indigenous people “do the work” without placing the onus on the people who are suffering from racism?
Voice, Treaty, Truth explainers
Since the Uluru statement was declared in 2017 we have heard calls from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders for “Voice, Treaty and Truth”. Our experts explained each stage of this process.
How did we get here?
We commissioned a series of experts to have a look at the turning points and significant moments in the Indigenous rights movement that brought us here.
This article details how the establishment of the office of the Protector of Aboriginal People informed policies that led to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not being included in the Australian Constitution of 1901.
In Victoria, large groups of First Nations people were placed onto missions for protection due to a lawless frontier. But this was at the cost of their land, language, lore, kinship structures and liveable conditions. This led to the Maloga mission petition of 1881. The petition set many people – including Yorta Yorta man William Cooper – on a career of activism.
Worimi historian John Maynard explores how Aboriginal activists first called for a voice to parliament during the 1920s. This call came from the first Aboriginal political organisation, the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association, led by John’s grandfather Fred Maynard.
Yorta Yorta leader William Cooper set about petitioning the British king, George V with the intention of Aboriginal people being represented in the Commonwealth parliament. Cooper was pursuing this so Australia’s lawmakers could be informed of the views of Aboriginal people.
The 1967 referendum was considered a success due to the 90.77% of Australians endorsing two constitutional amendments. Commentators credit the success of this referendum to unanimity, as there wasn’t a “no” campaign in 1967. However, as Jon Piccini explores, the answer is more complicated than that.