An image of a gadi tree

University statement on the Voice to Parliament

23 August 2023
University Senate released a statement on the Voice today
The University of Sydney has an underlying responsibility to support our democratic processes by promoting free speech and civic discourse.

The University of Sydney acknowledges the pivotal importance of the national referendum to recognise the First Nations peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Australian Constitution.

A constitutional Voice would empower Australia’s First Nations people to advise the federal Parliament and the Executive Government on issues that affect them, including higher education. The Parliament would retain powers to regulate the Voice, but the Voice could only be abolished by amending the Constitution.

As a university we have an underlying responsibility to support our democratic processes by promoting free speech and civic discourse – providing the community with access to reliable information, analysis, and the expertise of our academics and other diverse perspectives.  

Critical to this obligation is upholding the principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom.  

The University of Sydney is a community that exists to progress knowledge and understanding through the pursuit of free inquiry, civil debate, and the sharing of diverse opinions. It seeks to do this in ways that foster critical thinking and informed decision-making; not least when individuals are participating in democratic processes.  

In the spirit of promoting open and honest discourse, we will continue to encourage our staff and students to exercise leadership responsibly, should they choose to do so – and to seek information about the Voice, to ask questions and express their views, always respecting the rights of others to express different opinions safely.  

By encouraging and helping people to make informed decisions and exercise their voting rights conscientiously, we acknowledge the significance of each person's opinion. We are committed to ensuring the important views and perspectives of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, students, and their communities are prioritised in these discussions, and to supporting their overall wellbeing.

As Australia’s first university, existing on the lands of the oldest continuing culture in the world, we acknowledge the criticality and significance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the dialogues that have led to this referendum to recognise Australia’s First Nations peoples in the Constitution. As a public institution and workplace, we are committed to advancing reconciliation, closing the gap, and eliminating racism and all other forms of discrimination. In making this commitment, which is unwavering and enduring, we recognise our own role in the extended process of colonisation and our past in the denial of equal rights – and that we have a long way to go to adequately address our past, present and future.