Indigenous Voice to the Australian Parliament

The proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice aims to add a new clause into the Australian Constitution – the rule book that outlines the structure and powers of Parliament. The proposed change can only be made if the majority of Australian people vote ‘Yes’ through a referendum. A ‘Yes’ vote would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution through a Voice to Parliament and the Executive Government.

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice would provide permanent representation and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and give Indigenous communities - at a national, local and regional level - a way to help inform policy and legal decisions that impact their lives.

The History

Indigenous people have been asking for a say in their affairs for more than a century.

In 2017, over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates gathered and issued the Uluru Statement from the Heart to the Australian people. It was the product of a series of regional dialogues held across the country, and represents the largest consensus of First Nations peoples on a proposal for substantive recognition in Australian history.

It was a profound moment of unity in the Indigenous community, and a gift to all Australians who want to work together to find a better future, close the gaps in life outcomes, and, in the words of the Uluru Statement, to reach Makarrata, “a coming together after a struggle”.

The Voice is a direct outcome of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Uluru Statement from the Heart - artwork © Christine Brumby, Charmaine Kulitja, Rene Kulitja, Happy Reid /Copyright Agency, 2023

Statement on the Voice

This year, we – the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) – are celebrating our centenary. With this celebration has come a reflection on our achievements, but also a recognition of the areas where we have fallen short. As discussed in the forthcoming AAP document Supporting Indigenous Participation in Academic Philosophy in Australasia, we have a wealth of Indigenous philosophical knowledge in Australia, but Indigenous philosophy has largely occurred outside of the context of academic philosophy in this country. We have also reflected on historical silences within Australian philosophy about colonisation, genocide, the White Australia policy, the Stolen Generations, and other issues that affect First Nations peoples.

Later this year, Australians will vote in a referendum about whether to change the Constitution to recognise First Nations peoples of Australia and to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

We are the only wealthy democratic nation with a colonial history that does not recognise First Nations peoples in our constitution.

The call for a Voice to Parliament comes from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which followed the most comprehensive process to engage First Nations peoples in dialogues about constitutional and structural reforms in Australian history.

We are voting on whether the following lines should be inserted into the Constitution:

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

i. there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

ii. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

iii. the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures

Decisions made by Australian governments on matters that affect First Nations peoples have had – and continue to have – devastating consequences. One need only think of the Stolen Generations for an example of policy that was ostensibly supposed to “help” First Nations peoples, and which did exactly the opposite. The impacts of these policies continue to be felt today, and current policies – such as the Closing the Gap campaign – largely fall short in their attempts to ameliorate these impacts.

Prioritising First Nations peoples’ voices in the design and delivery of policies, programs and services that affect them is widely seen as the best way to facilitate self-determination and produce positive outcomes. This is what the Voice to Parliament is designed to achieve. “Nothing about us, without us” is not just a slogan, it is a mandate.

The Uluru Statement calls not only for the Voice to Parliament, but also for Makarrata, which is a Yolngu word that means agreement-making or treaty. As the Statement reads, “Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle”.

Many would like to prioritise a treaty, and some have worried that the Voice would somehow compromise a treaty, or cede sovereignty, although Australian legal experts assure us that these worries are unfounded.

On the matter of sovereignty, the AAP would like to recognise the sovereignty of First Nations peoples. Sovereignty was never ceded. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart extends a profound and generous invitation to “walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future”. The AAP urges Australians to use their critical thinking skills and their hearts when voting in the upcoming referendum. We hope that we can indeed walk together and value First Nations peoples’ insights into creating a better future for Australia.

AAP Diversity Committee


The Australasian Association of Philosophy recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.

The Australasian Association of Philosophy recognises the unique role of Māori as Tangata Whenua and embraces Te Tiriti o Waitangi recognising Māori as tino rangitiratanga of Aotearoa/New Zealand while embracing the three guiding principles of the Treaty – Partnership Participation and Protection.


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