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Albanese government starts referendum process to put indigenous voice in parliament

This is an important next step for Australia on the road to the referendum for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

The first meetings of the Referendum Working Group and the Referendum Engagement Group will be held in Canberra today.

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Image source: Garma festival (Twitter – Linda Burney MP)

These groups will work with the Australian Government on the next steps to a referendum in this term of Parliament to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement:

“The constitution is our nation’s birth certificate. It should be a source of pride that all Australians share this continent with Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples, the oldest continuous civilisation on earth. This should be recognised with a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.”

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The Referendum Working Group, co-chaired by Minister Linda Burney and Special Envoy Patrick Dodson, includes a broad cross-section of representatives from First Nations communities across Australia.

Minister Linda Burney observed that this is an important next step on the road to the referendum for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Minister Burney added:

“The work of the Referendum Working Group and the Referendum Engagement Group will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander views are front and centre in the decision making leading up to the Referendum. They will provide us with advice about how to harness the goodwill in the Australian community on this important nation building project.”

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Image source: Garma festival (Twitter – Anthony Albanese)

The Referendum Working Group will provide advice to the Government on how best to ensure a successful Referendum and focus on the key questions that need to be considered in the coming months, including:

  1. The timing to conduct a successful referendum;
  2. Refining the proposed constitutional amendment and question; and
  3. The information on the Voice necessary for a successful referendum.

The Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Senator Patrick Dodson said that this Group is a clear demonstration of Labor government’s strong commitment to go out and consult as “we work to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.”

Senator Dodson added:

“We’ve got a clear plan to get us from Garma to referendum day. The first step on that road is to listen to Indigenous Australians on how best to ensure we deliver a successful referendum.”

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Today’s meetings follow the Prime Minister’s landmark speech at the Garma Festival in north east Arnhem Land, where he released the possible wording of the proposed constitutional amendment and question on the Voice to be put to the Australian people.

A second meeting will be held with the Referendum Engagement Group, which includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives from the across the country, including: land councils, local governments, and community controlled organisations. They will provide advice about building community understanding, awareness, and support for the referendum.

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