The Voice Referendum

The City of Stirling’s position on The Voice Referendum is very simple – we are not campaigning either way.

In order for a referendum to perform that essential constitutional function that it does, accurate information outlining both sides in an impartial manner is essential.

The City of Stirling has designed this webpage to provide that critical information in the most impartial way possible, so that each resident can make their own determination in their own time, for their own reasons.

We know there will be different views within our workforce and community, and we remind everyone to undertake any conversation with kindness, care and respect.

  • The Australian Constitution is the set of rules by which Australia is governed. The only way to change the Constitution is by holding a referendum. It is up to the Australian people to decide if the Constitution should change.

    A federal referendum is a national vote on a question about whether part of the Constitution should change. Just like a federal election, all Australian citizens aged 18 and over must vote.

    For a referendum to pass, a majority of voters need to vote ‘yes’ nationally, plus a majority of voters in at least 4 out of 6 states. This is known as a double majority.

    On 19 June 2023, Parliament passed the Constitution Alteration Bill. This means the referendum question and proposed amendment to the Constitution are now set.
    On referendum day, voters will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a single question. The question on the ballot paper will be: 

    “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”
    If the referendum succeeds, the following words will be added to the Constitution as a new chapter to the document:

    Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
    129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice 
    In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia: 
    i. there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice; 
    ii. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; 
    iii. the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

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  • Timeline


    In a 1967 referendum, over 90 per cent of Australian voters agreed to change our Constitution to give the federal parliament the power to make laws in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to allow for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be included in the census. But the 1967 referendum did not address any specific recognition for Indigenous people and their rights. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocacy for constitutional change continued.


    In the Mabo decision, the High Court ruled in 1992 that the lands of this continent were not terra nullius or ‘land belonging to no-one’ when European settlement occurred, and that the Meriam people, the traditional owners, were ‘entitled as against the whole world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of (most of) the lands of the Murray Islands’. This recognition was then incorporated into legislation in the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).


    The formal Apology by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008 recognised the damage that had been done to Indigenous peoples, and particularly members of the Stolen Generations, by past government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation.


    Australia became a signatory to the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on 3 April 2009. The Declaration is a piece of international law that sets the standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of all Indigenous peoples. Article 15 outlines the rights of Indigenous peoples to have their dignity and diversity of cultures respected and imposes obligations on States to take action in conjunction with Indigenous peoples to combat prejudice and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations.


    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013 recognised the unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the nation.


    On 6 July 2015, then Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hosted a meeting in Sydney with 40 Indigenous leaders to discuss constitutional recognition. After the meeting, the leaders submitted a statement to the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader saying that a ‘minimalist’ approach – one that provided symbolic recognition in a constitutional preamble, removed section 25 and moderated the race power (section 51 (xxvi)) – would not be acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They sought substantive changes to the Constitution that would lay the foundation for fair treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into the future.


    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country came together and considered all the options for recognition. They wrote the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for a Voice for First Nations peoples to be added to the Constitution as the form that ‘recognition’ should take.


    The Australian Government agreed to have a referendum to let Australians decide whether to establish the Voice in the Constitution.
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