Constitutional reform: Voice
The Australian Constitution, Australia’s guiding document. It outlines the rules by which government holds power, and the principles by which legislation should be created. The Constitution does not mention Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and contains clauses that allow racial discrimination. The Constitution can only be amended by a national referendum.
Successive governments have made little progress towards a clear path to agreement and a referendum – despite calls over many decades from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be recognised and heard in their own countries, and a litany of government-initiated reports outlining the case for reform.
The main aim of the current position on constitutional reform is to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution a mechanism for participating actively in our democracy and addressing the unmet and pressing need for First Australians to have a voice in the policies and decisions that govern their lives. It is proposed as a body without veto power over the functions of Parliament.
It is argued that a constitutionally guaranteed Voice is important for permanency and endurance. The demise of Indigenous bodies set up in legislation such as ATSIC and the more recent establishment and then defunding of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples as political priorities change illustrate this point.
The current proposal for Constitutional reform rejects symbolic recognition in the Constitution in favour of a reform agenda that can achieve the outcomes required of a fully reconciled and fair Australia.
The way representatives are selected or elected to represent communities through the Voice has not been determined definitively, however it is agreed the process must be driven by the principle of self-determination; it is up to the First Nations to determine how they are represented.