Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Thursday that the Government and the Referendum Working Group (RWG) have agreed on the wording of the question that will form the basis of a referendum later this year. The question Australians will be asked to answer is “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?”
Should this proposal be passed by referendum, another chapter will be added to the Australian Constitution which would see the creation of a body that would “make representations” to the Government on issues regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and would allow the Government to legislate further regarding the creation and powers of the body.
It was stated in the press release that the Voice would provide independent and proactive advice, with its members being appointed to fixed terms by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Albanese was clear that the Voice would not have any form of veto power over the Government or legislation. Further, it was stated that the proposed changes would “enshrine two fundamental principles: Recognition and Consultation” within the Australian Constitution by assisting the Government in better understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This follows the passing of legislation Wednesday to allow the referendum to go ahead towards the end of 2023. The referendum has generated significant controversy, with some politicians actively campaigning against the Voice; while influential members of the legal community, including former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French and high profile constitutional barrister Bret Walker SC, have provided support for the “yes” vote.