The consultation, known as ‘Voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ will take place in the second half of this year. Despite the significant support from the government and various institutions of society, the proposal has detractors. Australia is a country in which constitutional reforms are not easily approved.
It will be the first referendum to be held in Australia since 1999, when the establishment of a republic was voted on. Approved by an overwhelming majority in the local Senate, with 52 votes in favor and 19 against, the Legislature gave the green light to the initiative known as ‘Voice’.
This paves the way for holding a referendum that can lead to the recognition of the original peoples in the country’s Magna Carta, hand in hand with the creation of a consultative body on the rights of these groups. The next step will be the proposal of the voting date, which corresponds to the prime minister of the oceanic nation, Anthony Albanese. It is expected to take place in the last semester of this year.
“Now Australians will have the opportunity to say yes,” celebrated the premier. “Together we can make history by consecrating the recognition of indigenous people,” he concluded in a message posted on social networks.
In this way, Albanese fulfills a part of the promise made in the campaign in the year 2022, in which he proposed the inclusion of the indigenous minority in the Constitution. The electoral proposal sought to grant greater participation in decision-making on the country’s internal affairs.
For her part, Australia’s indigenous affairs minister applauded progress on what she called “the final hurdle,” referring to the vote. “Today the political debate ends,” he said. “Today we can start a national conversation at the community level about what ‘Voice’ is, why it is needed, and how it will make a practical difference,” he concluded.
An unfavorable precedent
An important part of the population calls for a change in the country’s Constitution, which dates back to 1901. The difference with those who oppose it is minimal, although the latter represent the majority according to the consultancy Resolve.
The figures reveal that 51% oppose the changes, while 49% applaud the reforms. Likewise, the Essentia survey shows a more pronounced difference: 60% accept the changes compared to 40% who oppose it.
History shows how difficult it is to get a change to the Australian Constitution. In 19 referendums held to approve 44 proposals, only eight have been endorsed by public opinion. However, in 1967 an issue referring to indigenous rights obtained a record vote.
Other reactions to the approval
Currently, the referendum has broad support from various local businesses and sports sectors. But it also has detractors. Political opposition dismiss it as a distraction from practical issues and a move that would “divide” Australians along race lines.
Today we’re a day closer to:
– paying millions in repairs
– rewriting our history
– being Divided by race.
Vote No Australia!
— Jacinta Nampijinpa (@JNampijinpa) June 19, 2023
“This is not because we agree with what this bill is ultimately intended to achieve, which is, of course, to irrevocably change this nation’s Constitution in a way that will destroy one of our most fundamental values: equality. of citizenship”, remarked Michaelia Cash, leader of the political opposition in the Senate.
The fierce opposition of some parts of society was reflected in the reaction of the Independent Senator Lydia Thorpe. The legislator, who described the ‘Voice’ as “noise”, opposed it because, according to her, “You are appeasing guilty whites in this country by giving ‘poor blacks’ a powerless advisory body”.
The ‘Voice’ initiative was launched almost six years ago by a group of 250 indigenous leaders. At that time, the conservative Executive that ran the country rejected the proposal under the justification that they wanted to create a third chamber in Parliament.
With Reuters, EFE and AP
Source: France 24