Australians will soon be asked to vote on a very important question: should we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution with a Voice?
This upcoming referendum is an opportunity for union members to stand shoulder to shoulder with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and vote “YES” for meaningful, practical change.
Australian unions are urging working people to vote YES for recognition and Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But how do we persuade our co-workers, neighbours and friends?
Join union delegates, organisers, and comrades from across the labour movement in a learning opportunity geared to help everyone have effective organising conversations that bring can our community together and move Australia forward.
As Australians, we pride ourselves on being a diverse and vibrant society.
Yet one significant part of our history has not been recognised in our Constitution: the 65,000 years of continuous cultural connection to this land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Up until the 1967 referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were considered to be part of Australian flora and fauna.
Over 90 per cent of Australians voted then to ensure that Aboriginal people were able to be counted as part of the Australian population.
Now it’s time to take the next step and make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not just recognised formally in our Constitution, but that there is a requirement for governments to consult with them about laws and policies that directly impact upon their people and their communities.
This vote is a once in a generation chance to come together and create meaningful and real change.
Unions have always fought for social justice; it’s in our DNA.
We know that our work as activists does not stop at the door to our workplaces.
Inclusion, reconciliation and social justice have always been union business.
As union members, we also understand the importance of having a voice. We know that our voices are stronger when we stand together collectively and when we have a say about matters that impact on us.
For too long, Parliaments have failed to consult and made laws and failed policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Just like unions have campaigned for restitution of stolen wages and for the removal of laws that have forced many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work for free or below the legal minimum wage, the upcoming referendum is an opportunity to make change.
It's an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and vote “YES” for meaningful, practical change across all areas of their lives.
Now is a great time to check your voter enrolment status.
All eligible voters aged 18 and over are required to vote in the referendum.
16 and 17 year olds can enrol now so they're ready to vote once they turn 18.
Starting positive conversations with the people in your life about why a “YES” vote is vitally important.
Let us know when you sign up if you're willing to have conversations about voting YES and we'll offer training and resources to support you.
A Voice will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide advice to the Federal Parliament about laws and policies.
A Voice will support a consultative policy-making process that delivers meaningful, structural change. It's about First Nations people having a say on the issues that impact their lives.
A Voice will mean we can finally start to make progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on practical issues like jobs, health, education and justice.
A successful referendum will create a pathway for Indigenous Australians to advise the government of the day about real solutions to issues impacting their communities.
This will mean fewer misdirected resources and more effective outcomes. This recognition is not just symbolic, it's practical.
Australia’s legal system is founded upon its Constitution which was adopted when Australia became a Commonwealth nation on the 1st of January 1901.
The Constitution outlines the basic rules for the government of Australia which binds the Commonwealth Parliament and every Parliament of each state.
It provides the ‘heads of power’ that the Commonwealth is able to make laws about, and which permits the Commonwealth Parliament to determine the details of the laws, from time to time.
In this light, the proposed Constitutional amendment will simply require that the Commonwealth Parliament consider the final structure or mechanism for how the Government will consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For this reason, the Referendum proposal will not contain the precise level of detail on how this will occur, as this will be a matter for elected Members of the Parliament to determine after the Referendum.
Importantly, having a requirement for a Voice within the Constitution, removes the right of any Government to ignore consultation over law making that impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, now and into the future.
When something becomes enshrined in the Constitution, it has been decided by the people and it cannot just be taken away. This is particularly important for First Nations People who have seen many representative bodies and other policies abolished by different governments.
Listen to more on why amending the Constitution is so important from Victorian Trades Hall Council's Wil Stracke:
It’s been a while since Australians last voted in a referendum. The last referendum was held in 1999 and the last successful referendum in 1977.
For many Australians, this year will be the first time they have voted in a referendum.
A referendum is the only way to change the Australian Constitution and any change must be approved by the majority of eligible Australian voters
For a referendum to be successful, it must be approved by a “double majority”.
This means a national majority of voters (i.e. more than half of all voters across Australia) AND a majority of states (i.e. at least four out of six states) must have a majority “YES” vote.
When a referendum is successful, it is the responsibility of the government to implement the constitutional change in keeping with the will of the Australian people.
Authorised by J King, Queensland Council of Unions, 16 Peel Street South Brisbane
Queensland Unions acknowledges the traditional lands on which we live and work – in Meanjin (Brisbane) the lands of the Turrbal and Jagera Peoples – and pays respect to elders past and present.
We also urge all Australians to heed the call of First Nations people who seek our movement’s support for a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution. Parliaments have made laws and failed policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for centuries; a voice enshrined in the constitution will give them a direct line to parliament to give advice on laws and policies that directly affect them.
Previous laws have often entrenched discrimination and disadvantage such as forcing First Nations Peoples to work for free or below legal minimum wages over two centuries. The minimum First Nations Peoples deserve is that their voice be respected and listened to before laws and policies are made. For these reasons Queensland Unions has committed to supporting the "Yes" campaign in the upcoming referendum.