Posted on March 24, 2023

Emotional Australian PM Advances Indigenous Referendum

Renju Jose and Praveen Menon, Reuters, March 23, 2023

Australia took a step on Thursday towards a historical referendum to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders recognition in the constitution and, for the first time, a voice on matters that affect their lives.

In an emotional address, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed the question the government wants to set in the referendum later this year, urging Australians to back what he described as a long overdue vote.

“For many … this moment has been a very long time in the making,” Albanese said, choking up during a televised press conference, standing alongside several Indigenous leaders supporting the proposal.

“Yet they have shown such patience and optimism through this process, and that spirit of cooperation and thoughtful, respectful dialogue has been so important at arriving at this point in such a united fashion.”

The referendum question to be put to Australians will 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?”.

Making up about 3.2% of Australia’s near 26 million population, the Aboriginal people were marginalised by British colonial rulers and are not mentioned in the 122-year-old constitution. {snip}


The committee would provide non-binding advice to parliament on matters that affect First Nations people.


A Guardian poll out on Tuesday showed public support for the referendum was down 5% but was still backed by a majority, with 59% in favour.