A student's guide to the Voice: what is the Voice to Parliament? 

Exercise your democratic right

Voting in the referendum is your opportunity to have your say, so it's important you know what you're voting on and what resources are available to help you vote. 

This year, eligible Australians will vote in a referendum. The referendum will comprise of a single yes or no question about adding words into the Constitution about an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. 

To help you prepare for the upcoming referendum, we've created a series of articles answering the most common questions you might have, including the voting process, what education resources are available and the University's role in facilitating political discussion and debate. This article is the second in our series – a student's guide to the Voice

What is the Voice to Parliament? 

The Voice to Parliament, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, is a call to enact an independent and permanent advisory body that gives advice to the Australian parliament and government on matters that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The matters which this body would advise on include education, health, housing, justice and other policies with a practical impact on First Nations people. 

What question will Australians vote on? 

The referendum will ask eligible Australians to vote on a single question:

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?

How did the Voice come about? 

While the majority of Australians learned about the 2023 referendum last year, work towards constitutional recognitition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been going on for more than a decade.

The Australian government's history of constitutional recognition and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice details the origins and work leading up to the implementation of the referendum. 

If the referendum passes, what will the Voice look like?

There has been a lot of work over many years to define what a Voice could look like. The following Voice design principles were agreed by the First Nations Referendum Working Group and were drawn from this work.

The Voice will: 

  • give independent advice to the parliament and government

  • be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of local communities

  • be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth

  • be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful, and culturally informed

  • be accountable and transparent

  • work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures

  • not have a program delivery function

  • not have a veto power.

While these principles will guide the design of the Voice, it would not be the only source of inspiration. If the referendum passes, there will be a process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the parliament and the broader public to settle the Voice design.

Where can I find resources to help me vote? 

There are a range of resources available to help you vote in the referendum. The majority of resources or campaigns will fall in to two categories – those in favour of voting yes to the referendum and those in favour of the voting no. 

To help you understand both sides of the debate, we've compiled resources for the 'yes' campaign and the 'no' campaign.

Where can I find impartial advice about the Voice? 

If you're after resources to help you understand the referendum, the Australian Electoral Comission's (AEC) 2023 referendum resources provide impartial information about what the Voice to Parliament is and how to vote. 

How can I ensure I'm not misled by a campaign? 

It's important you know that the primary objective of a campaign or campaign resource is to encourage you to vote in a certain way. 

Just like you would engage with any academic source, it's important to use your critical thinking when addressing campaign information and sources. This is true for both "Yes" and "No" campaign resources.

Consider if the information is from a reliable or recognisable source, and whether the claims are supported by evidence, are missing context or using emotional language. 

For more information on consuming and interpreting campaign resources, read the AEC disinformation awareness fact sheet

21 August 2023

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