Australian citizens gear up to vote in a referendum on 14 October that centres on the establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The move is aimed at acknowledging the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals within the country’s constitution.

The proposed Indigenous Voice holds the promise of playing an instrumental role in the legislative process by providing recommendations on crucial matters. The referendum requires a majority “yes” vote from Australians and majority support in a minimum of four out of six states to pass.

Australia has not experienced a successful referendum in nearly fifty years.

The proposed Indigenous Voice would not hold binding authority, as the composition, roles, and authority of the body would be determined and debated as a whole by the Australian parliament. However, proponents argue that its mere existence would mark a substantial step towards recognising the sovereignty and unique perspectives of Indigenous Australians.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the poll date during a rally in Adelaide. He underscored the importance of the referendum in uniting and advancing the nation. The prime minister urged citizens to endorse this opportunity, as the referendum is not just about constitutional changes, but about building a more equitable and harmonious nation for all.

The roots of the Indigenous Voice concept trace back to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a historic document crafted in 2017 by over 250 Indigenous leaders. Despite not garnering unanimous support, the statement endorsed the creation of the Indigenous Voice, a recommendation that has sparked debates ever since.

Australia remains the sole Commonwealth nation without a treaty with its indigenous population.

Supporters of the Indigenous Voice argue that it could be a pivotal instrument in addressing the disproportionate disparities in societal conditions experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Yet, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton argued that the proposal lacks the necessary specifics and might inadvertently foster racial divisions among Australians. Opponents of Indigenous Voice are accused of exploiting racial tensions and spreading misinformation to further their cause.

Meanwhile, the critics of the “Yes” campaign accuse its proponents of elitism, asserting that they are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens.

Australia’s most recent referendum took place in 1999, focusing on the decision to remain a constitutional monarchy rather than transition into a republic. Among the 44 referendums held in Australia, only eight have achieved success, with the most recent one dating back to 1977.

No referendum has been approved without receiving bipartisan endorsement.