Anthony Albanese Shares Draft Referendum Question For Indigenous Voice To Parliament

"I ask all Australians of goodwill to engage on this."

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The implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is rapidly becoming a reality — with the Australian government recently sharing a draft referendum question at Garma festival over the weekend.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said while the referendum question wasn’t final, it serves as the “basis for dialogue” to what Australians will eventually be asked to vote on to officially change the Australian constitution and legislate an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Speaking at Garma festival in Arnhem land over the weekend, Albanese outlined the government’s rationale for implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart while offering an example question, ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice?’.

“We can use this question — and the provisions — as the basis for further consultation. Not as a final decision but as the basis for dialogue, something to give the conversation shape and direction,” The Prime Minister said in a speech at the festival.

“I ask all Australians of goodwill to engage on this. Respectfully, purposefully we are seeking to secure support for the question and the associated provisions in time for a successful referendum, in this term of parliament.”

For the last five years, Indigenous activists have been lobbying the Federal Government to adopt policy reforms aimed at bringing profound change to how First Nations people are represented in this country. Known as the Uluru Statement from the Heart, it calls on the Australian government to enshrine an Indigenous voice in parliament along with a truth-telling ceremony (known as a Makarrata commission ) and a formal treaty between First Nations people and the government.

While the government has committed to implementing the statement in full, there are disagreements among First Nations people surrounding the order in which the reforms should be implemented as well as the nature of the referendum itself.

Gomeroi woman and Aboriginal Tent Embassy caretaker Gwenda Stanley told reporters from the Canberra Times that putting a referendum to the Australian public undermines the sovereignty of First Nations people.

“We don’t belong in the constitution, full stop,” Ms Stanley said. “What we are about is land rights and sovereignty in our country, and having our own Black parliament voice from a grassroots level.”

The campaign director for the Uluru Statement from the Heart Dean Parkin defended that a referendum was necessary to enshrine laws that would prevent “more of the same” problems affecting First Nations communities in Australia, as shown in the “disappointing” progress in the latest Closing the Gap report.

“The solutions are not in Canberra, they are on the ground where these challenges are being faced and that’s what the voice is simply all about,” Dean Parkin told reporters from The Guardian.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tamati SmithStringer