The Voice: expert views from Sydney Law School

Understanding the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
Gain a comprehensive understanding of the upcoming Voice referendum on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Access valuable resources for an informed vote.

The Voice referendum is about the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and providing them with a voice in relation to laws and policies that affect them. Many people have questions about the Voice, such as its origins and how it fits with our legal and constitutional system.

Australian electors need to be well informed when casting their vote in the upcoming Voice referendum, scheduled for later this year. Changing the Constitution is a rare event in Australia and this proposed amendment has sparked significant debate.

The Sydney Law School aims to assist the community in becoming informed about the referendum by leveraging the expertise of its professionals. On this page, you will find materials and resources that will help you comprehend the facts and navigate the ongoing debate.

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Sydney Law School has a depth of expertise in constitutional and administrative law, international and human rights law.  

Constitutional and Administrative Law

International and Human Rights Law

Materials and resources

The Voice Referendum presented by Associate Professor Elisa Arcioni

The Uluru Statement from the Heart #YesToVoice

The Voice is to be a mechanism through which the views of First Nations people can be received by the key national institutions of public power – the Parliament and the Executive. The Voice has been deliberately designed to fit within existing public law structures and processes. The concerns raised publicly regarding the ability of the Voice to make representations to the Executive fail to take into account the power conferred on the Parliament to make laws about the legal effect of the Voice’s representations.

Enshrining the Voice would continue a journey that our Constitution has been on since 1901 - from exclusion to silence to recognition.

The Voice is to be a forum through which First Nations can be heard. Its membership must be determined by First Nations peoples. Therefore, while the Voice must be enshrined in the Constitution, its composition should be left for legislation. Parliamentary determination of membership of the Voice is consistent with Australian constitutional traditions. The political negotiations regarding legislative detail require good faith and judicial review of any legislation should be conducted prudently.

Enshrinement of the Voice in the Constitution is necessary for several reasons.  The structure of the Voice proposal is consistent with Australian constitutional design and the Voice would be a step in the development of the constitutional identity of 'the people'. The ability of the Voice to make representations to the Executive is consistent with existing institutional relationships and the legal effect of such representations can be determined by the Parliament.

The proposed Voice is consistent with international human rights law standards relating to indigenous peoples. The Voice is only a modest first step towards fulfilling the full spectrum of indigenous rights necessary to achieve fair and genuine reconciliation. 

The bill promotes the right of all citizens to take part in public affairs. The bill is consistent with the realisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' right to self-determination. The bill would promote the right to equality and non-discrimination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The committee considers that the bill would not negatively affect the ability of members of the broader community to enjoy or exercise their rights and freedoms. The bill is compatible with the right to equality and non-discrimination.

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