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Referendum: The Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that resources in this guide may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons. There may also be culturally sensitive terms or language used in some of the resources in this Guide

2023 Referendum

On October 14 Australians will answer Yes or No to the following 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?

Further information is available from the Australian Electoral Commission website. Follow the inks below to see where, how and when you may cast your vote. 

See the proposed new chapter of the Constitution 

2023 referendum timetable 

The Upcoming Referendum

The Federal Government and the opposition have been consulting with the Referendum Working Group to plan the process, date and question for the referendum. It has now been decided that it will be held on a Saturday and will be after the sporting grand Finals are held in September. An information pamphlet will be supplied to homes in preparation for the event and pre-polling will be possible.  

A question has now been proposed. It is below. While this question may still change it is a forward step in the consultation process and was built from earlier Draft wording.

“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?”

The Draft wording can be located here. It was a suggested structure announced by Prime Minister Albanese on 30 July 2022 at the Garma festival. "Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Voice?" 

Consultation with the Referendum Working Group is ongoing.



  Butler, J. 23 March 2023. Indigenous voice to parliament referendum question and constitution changes revealed by emotional PM. ABC News

Commonwealth of Australia. (30 July 2022.). Address to Garma Festival. Prime Minister of Australia.,people%20of%20the%20Yolngu%20nation

Evans, J. (22 March,2023). Parliament has decided on how the Voice referendum will work. Here’s what to expect. ABC NEWS.

Hitch, G. (23 March 2023). Voice to Parliament referendum question and constitutional amendment announced. ABC NEWS.

Giannini. D. & Brown, A. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reveals Indigenous voice referendum question. 7News.

The Referendum Project | WSU School of Law

2023 Referendum Project : Empowerment, Engagement and Education

Western Sydney University Law School is committed to playing its part in one of the most important national debates in our country’s history. The Law School believes that students are important ambassadors for open and informed communication and debate with the wider public.
In 2023, the Law School will run a range of programs and projects aimed at informing the University and the broader community about the legal and political implications of constitutional amendment.

The 2023 Referendum project includes:

What is a Referendum?

A Referendum is a ballot where all registered voters give their opinion about a political or social issue.  It focuses on a single electoral issue or question which will lead to a change to the Constitution. It is a way for the government to know what most people believe and to get a sense of popular opinion. 

Short explainer video from the Australian Electoral Commission video describing the features of a Referendum.

Referendums, like Elections, are mandatory in Australia. The question will ask all enrolled voters to answer either YES or NO. A Referendum is passed when it is approved by a double majority. See diagram below outlining how a double majority works (available from the Australian Electoral commission).  









Australian Electoral Commission. (ND). Double majority fact Sheet. [brochure].


Context - The 1967 Referendum

While the most recent referendum was 1999 and important one in the Indigenous Austrlian history occurred on May 27th, 1967.  Australia held a Referendum where it was proposed that the Constitution remove some words relating to Aboriginal peoples. Over 90% of Australians voted YES.

"The results of the 1967 Referendum are significant for three reasons:

  • It allowed the Commonwealth of Australia to make laws with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (amendment to Section 51) 
  • People identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander could be legally recorded in the results of the Australian Census for the first time (amendment to Section 127) and;
  • The question relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recorded the highest YES vote of any proposed alteration to the Constitution, 90.77 percent."(National Library of Australia)

National LIbrary of Australia -  The 1967 Referendum

Reconciliation Australia:  1967 Referendum

Australian Electoral Commission:  Constitutional Referendums Brochure

Timeline of Recognition

How did we get here? The journey to the upcoming Referendum begins when the states of Australia federated to become a nation (Jan 1, 1901).

Over our modern history there have several policy changes that have impacted Indigenous Australians. 

The Australian Law Reform Commission outlines the Changing Policies Towards Aboriginal People. The current Referendum has developed out of the three recommendations to the Commonwealth government in the Uluru Statement From the Heart (2017). These were - Voice, Treaty, Truth. 

Follow a timeline of Constitutional recognition for Australia's Indigenous peoples.  

President Patten (right) reads resolution (SLNSW)


Reading List


Ahmat, N. (Host), Thorpe, N. (Reporter), Little, R., Mayor, T., & Mundine, W. (Contributors). (2017, September 22). Almost three months have passed since the Referendum Council delivered its final report on constitutional recognition [Video]Informit.


Appleby, G., Brennan, S., & Davis, M. (2022, September). Constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations Voice: The referendum question (Discussion paper No. 2). Indigenous Law Centre.


Carrick, D,. ( 2023, March 28). Indigenous Voice: Justice Kenneth Hayne speaks to the Law Report [radio broadcast]. Radio National.


McGregor, R. (2017, May 26). Right wrongs, write yes': What was the 1967 referendum all about? The Conversation.,to%20Aborigines%20in%20Australia's%20Constitution


Murray, N. (2018, January 24). My grandfather protested against Australia Day in 1938. We'll never have a reason to rejoiceon that day. ABC News.


Sales, L. (Host), & Brennan, B. (Reporter), Morrison, S., Wyatt, K., Pearson, N., Anderson, P., Scales, S., Mayor, T., Turnbull,M., Hunter, N., Davis, M., Albanese, A., Burney, L., Bandt, A., & Russell, L. (Contributors). (2022, May 3). Indigenous leaders call for a referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament:  Five years ago, First Nations leaders came together to make a  landmark declaration aimed at closing the gap for Indigenous Australians after two centuries of disadvantage and  disempowerment [Video]. Informit.


Wordsworth, M. (Host), Higgins, I. (Reporter), Anderson, P., Burney, L., & Cummings, E., Davis, M., Pigram, B., Turnbull, M.,& Wyatt, K. (2019, July 10). Indigenous recognition: New commitment: First nations leaders have welcomed the government’s promise to hold a referendum on Indigenous constitution recognition within 3 years. Informit.


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