As Parliament passes ‘Referendum Bill’ now it’s your chance to make a difference

“Together, we can make history by enshrining recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution."

The Senate passed the bill on Monday to enable the referendum 52 to 19, following a fiery final debate in the upper house.

The vote means the referendum will be held in the next two to six months, with the government already flagging it will take place between October and December.

The bill passed to a standing ovation in the public gallery and rounds of applause.

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The final parliamentary vote on holding a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution has been hailed as a day “as big as Uluru”.

Labor senator Murray Watt said the significance of the day was as “big as Uluru” – a view endorsed by Assistant Indigenous Australians Minister Malarndirri McCarthy.

“(Indigenous people) want this to happen,”

she said.

“They’re reaching out to all Australians, to be able to feel proud of this time in our country’s history where we can lift one another up.

“It is the systemic change that was called upon by those who gathered at Uluru.”

While most coalition senators spoke against the Indigenous voice, most of them voted to set up the referendum to allow the public to have their say.

Liberal senator Michaelia Cash voted for the referendum bill, but described the voice as “risky, unknown and divisive”.

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price said the voice was dividing Australians.

“The goodwill of many non-Indigenous Australians is being exploited by those who seek to profit in money, clout or power off the real problems being faced by marginalised Australians,”

she said.
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Independent senator Lidia Thorpe said it would be tokenistic and wouldn’t address issues impacting Indigenous people.

She instead urged for the government to set up a treaty, calling the voice a powerless body.

“Happy assimilation day, everybody,” Senator Thorpe said.

“Many clans and nations around this country do not support assimilating into such a racist, colonial regime and we will continue to push for our sovereignty to be acknowledged.”

Upon the bill passing, she yelled out “Another day in the colony, another nail in the coffin”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australians would now be able to have their say.

“Together, we can make history by enshrining recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution,” he said on Twitter.

Uluru Dialogue co-chair Megan Davis said the bill passing was a historic moment.

“We’re closer to a referendum to finally give First Nations Peoples a chance to be heard,” Professor Davis said.

“This is the recognition we’ve been fighting for and what the vast majority of First Nations People support. The significance of this moment cannot be overstated.”

Paul Ramsay Foundation chief First Nations officer Michelle Steele, who travelled to parliament for the vote, said there was a feeling of excitement and optimism among ‘yes’ campaigners.

“I want to say to broader Australia, please just listen to us and that’s the most important thing about the voice,” she said.

“Some details might come later but it is really a great opportunity for us to share this love of country.”

Some senators were designated to vote against the bill to allow them to outline arguments for a ‘no’ vote in pamphlets sent to all Australian households.

Among those who voted ‘no’ in the chamber were Senator Price, Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie and Senator Thorpe.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who stood down from the party’s front bench due to his support for the voice, said a ‘yes’ vote would lead to real change.

“The voice is a practical change that will help local and regional communities across Australia,”

he said.

“It is a safe constitutional change and it will make a meaningful difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”