Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney says she is confident the nation is ready for a referendum to decide whether to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
- Indigenous Australians Minister says the Voice referendum question must be kept simple
- Linda Burney says the 1967 referendum is proof of Australia’s decency
- The Greens spokeswoman on First Nations says she is skeptical the nation is ready
A Voice to Parliament was the key recommendation of the 2017 Uluru Statement of the Heart, a petition to government by Indigenous leaders following debate and discussions in Indigenous communities around the country.
On the weekend, while at the Garma Festival in the Northern Territory, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese proposed a draft referendum question that could be put to the public.
But a referendum is yet to have full buy-in from the Greens, Liberals or Nationals, a key concern being that there is not a clear picture on how the body would look and operate.
The Indigenous Australians Minister said the referendum question must be kept simple, but there were detailed proposals on how the body could function.
“There’s been 10 years of reports, parliamentary inquiries, discussions with constitutional lawyers, there has been a lot of discussions with Aboriginal leaders,” Ms Burney said.
“There is a lot of detail out there in the community.
“The last thing that we would want, which we have seen in the past in turns of referendums, is a proposition or a question that people can’t sign up to.”
For a referendum to pass it must have at least 50 per cent of the public vote yes nationally and in each state and territory.
A referendum hasn’t been put to the Australian public since 1999, when a ‘No’ result to Australia becoming a republic put an end to debate for a generation.
But Ms Burney said people should look further back when asking if a Voice referendum could succeed.
“Australians are decent, they’re fair, and when you go back to 1967, the last time there was really a referendum question directly to do with Aboriginal people, there was the most successful yes vote,” she said.
Ms Burney admitted the bar was high for a referendum to succeed, but she said she was not “so naive to think there won’t be a scare campaign and detractors”.
Greens spokeswoman on First Nations, Lidia Thorpe, said they were committed to the full implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
But she was skeptical that the nation was ready for a debate on the Voice to Parliament.
“I don’t believe we are at that point in this country where all Australians are open to hearing the true history of this country,” Senator Thorpe told ABC Radio National.
“I don’t think we need any mechanism except for a government that is open to telling the truth and a nation that is open to hearing the truth.”