House debates

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Questions without Notice

Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

2:05 pm

Photo of Marion ScrymgourMarion Scrymgour (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Minister, what progress has been made on the referendum to enshrine a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution?

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the member for Lingiari for her question. This is truly a really great day for this nation. Last night the Senate passed the referendum machinery bill with bipartisan support, and just a few hours ago the Prime Minister announced the wording of the constitutional amendment and the question that will be put to Australians at the referendum. That question 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?

It's a simple question. It's a matter from the heart.

Six years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people met at Uluru. The Statement from the Heart was the largest-ever First Nations consensus on a way forward for this country. There were 12 regional dialogues with more than 1,200 representatives—grassroots, bottom-up, not top-down. The Statement from the Heart is an invitation to walk together in a movement of the Australian people for a better future, to create constitutional reform so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can take our rightful place in the Constitution.

I thank all members of the working group, the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister McCarthy and the legendary Senator Dodson for all their commitment and work. I also acknowledge the bravery and commitment of the Prime Minister, which the nation saw so clearly today, as well as my colleagues across the parliament who want to make a difference.

This has been a rigorous and comprehensive process. The Australian people can be confident the work has been done to ensure a voice that works, a voice that makes a practical difference, a voice that is not another layer of bureaucracy but will hold bureaucracy to account, a voice that will move Australia forward for everyone.

When we listen to people, lives change for the better. As Marcia Langton said:

We're here to draw a line in the sand and say, 'This has to change, people's lives have to improve.'

We know from the evidence that what improves people's lives is when they get a say. Let's work together and get this done.