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Factbox-Five things to know about Australia’s planned Indigenous referendum

By:
Reuters
Published: Mar 23, 2023, 05:21 GMT+00:00

By Praveen Menon SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday outlined key details for a proposed referendum between October and December this year on recognising the nation's Indigenous people in its constitution.

Factbox-Five things to know about Australia’s planned Indigenous referendum

By Praveen Menon

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday outlined key details for a proposed referendum between October and December this year on recognising the nation’s Indigenous people in its constitution.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who represent about 3.2% of Australia’s population, are currently not mentioned in the constitution.

Here are five things to know about the referendum:

Proposed changes to the constitution

Albanese has proposed adding an additional chapter to Australia’s constitution. The new chapter will read as follows:

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander Voice;  2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may makerepresentations to the Parliament and the Executive Governmentof the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander peoples; 3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, havepower to make laws with respect to matters relating to theAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including itscomposition, functions, powers and procedures.

What is the proposed referendum question?

Albanese said on Thursday the referendum question would be: “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 does the referendum work?

The government will introduce a bill in parliament in next week outlining the proposed changes to the constitution.

This will be scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

Once approved in parliament, it will be sent to the Governor General, the local representative of the British monarch, who issues a writ for a referendum.

How many votes are needed?

To change the constitution, the government must secure what is known as a double majority in the referendum.

That means more than 50% voters must vote in favour nationally, plus a majority of voters in a majority of the states must back the change.

Votes of people living in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the Northern Territory regions, and any of Australia’s external territories, count towards the national majority only.

Poll turnout will be high as voting is compulsory.

How have past referendums fared?

There have been 44 proposals for constitutional change in 19 referendums, and only eight of these proposals have been approved.

In the last referendum in 1999, Australians voted against changing the constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the British monarch and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of members of parliament.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon in Sydney; Editing by Alasdair Pal and Lincoln Feast.)

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