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  • Sofia Jayne

Explainer: The Voice to Parliament

On October 14, all eligible Australians will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to alter the Constitution and establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. For those of us younger than 42, this will be the first time we vote in a referendum - and it’s a big one.



Melbourne March for Yes, September 17 (Photo by Sofia Jayne)

Whether this referendum passes or not, the outcome of our decision will have a significant impact on Indigenous communities and our national identity. That’s why it’s important to make sure that whichever way we choose to vote, our decisions are well-informed.


Understanding the referendum process and conflicting debates amidst the influx of misinformation that have been circulating in the media can be hard to navigate. So, The Swanston Gazette has broken down the main points you need to know, and later in this article, we’ve asked two Indigenous leaders to explain the differing sides of the debate.


But first, let’s understand the basics.


What is a referendum?


A referendum is a national vote by the Australian people to alter the Constitution. The Australian Constitution is Australia’s rulebook that came into place in 1901, establishing us as a self-governing nation and not just a British colony. Besides some Indigenous people in South Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were not involved in the discussions that led to the formation of the Constitution, nor its drafting.


The only way to change the Constitution is to hold and pass a referendum, and that can only be done by achieving a double majority. That means that the question needs the support of both a majority of people, and a majority of states.



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