In 2023, Australians will be asked if there should be a constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

A referendum - a compulsory national vote that is not an election - is required when there is a proposal to change our Australian constitution. 

The proposed question will be ‘do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’ 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have asked for this recognition to be in the form of a voice to parliament. 

Only through a Constitutional Referendum will the Voice have the support and authority it needs to make sure the government and Parliament will take its advice seriously. 

The quality of life for most First Nations people should be much better. A country like Australia should not have such terrible gaps in health, education, justice and income between First Nations and other Australians. 

For over 200 years Australian governments have been making decisions about First Nations people. These decisions have resulted in the outcomes we see today. The statistics show that life for many First Nations Australians is hard, short and poor. It starts that way, and few are given the chance to catch up. Something isn’t working and needs to change. 

The Voice would give First Nations a chance to have their say about new laws and projects and explain why they may or may not work.  

This will mean better decisions are made. This will result in practical change.  

We will be able to close the gap between First Nations and other Australians. 

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Unions always stand up for fairness, justice and making sure no one is left behind. These issues affect many of our First Nations members. They have asked for our help. Our member leadership endorsed this campaign at the 2022 Member Convention. 

Our Union has a proud history of fighting for what is right and making lives better. This vote is simple. Recognising our First Nations Australians and allowing them to have a voice in decisions made about them. It will mean better decisions are made which will help them achieve the same quality of life we expect. It is Union business and we need to make this right. 

450 Delegates representing 150,000 members came together in Queensland for our Union’s first Quadrennial Delegates Convention in 2022. 

Members overwhelming supported a YES campaign at the Convention and want our union to be leading conversations in workplaces and in the community. 

Delegates shared their experiences and struggles at large plenaries and dug deeper to develop resolutions on campaigning for our commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

This is an exciting and important moment for our union and our country, and it will involve all parts of our union in this historic campaign. 

Common questions:

The Voice will be a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (First Nations) from across Australia. Their job will be to help the Government understand how new laws will affect First Nations people. 

So, for the first time, instead of our Government telling First Nations people what is best for them, First Nations people will have a chance to explain to the Government what they think is best. 

A Voice should be separate from politics. If the Voice is written into the Constitution then it becomes permanent. Politicians can’t ignore our vote and remove it. Governments are also more likely to take its advice seriously if it’s in the Constitution. The only way a Government could cancel recognition of First Nations people and dismiss the Voice would be to hold another referendum and ask the people to decide. 

Australians are being asked to vote on the idea of recognising First Nations people and a Voice to Parliament. The detail is like everything else in the Constitution. It will be researched, planned, debated and voted on by experts and Parliaments, which is what we elected them to do. 

For example, Australia’s Constitution says that Parliament should make laws so that Australia has an army and a navy to defend the country. It doesn’t give details of numbers of soldiers or equipment or budgets, it’s just a couple of lines saying we should have it.  

We are voting on the idea of recognition and a Voice. Parliament will work out the detail, and details will be adjusted over the years as things change. 

Over 80% of First Nations people support Constitutional Recognition and a Voice to Parliament. There are some First Nations people who don’t agree, think it doesn’t go far enough, or think a Treaty should come first. As with any group of people, there are different views and they should be heard. The media is giving these views plenty of attention. 

Most First Nations leaders and the large majority of First Nations people support this referendum and want recognition through a Voice.  UWU has been guided by First Nations members and delegates who support us being involved to win a YES Vote, and 450 delegates at the 2022 National Member Convention strongly agreed. 

If First Nations people were getting more than other Australians, their quality of life and conditions would not be as bad as they are. Look at the Closing the Gap statistics in this booklet. Occasionally special measures are made for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities because their situation is far more urgent. Their health, education, justice and employment outcomes are far below other Australians. For example, First Nations people could access COVID-19 vaccines at an earlier age than other Australians. This was because in general, First Nations health issues are so much worse than other Australians and they were more vulnerable. 

If this referendum fails, it will set reconciliation between First Nations and other Australians back for a generation. The 1999 referendum on Australia becoming a republic failed, and no Government has wanted to try again even though most Australians support it. This is our chance to do something that is right, practical and long overdue. We cannot miss this chance. 

It is a simple question, Should we recognise Australia’s first peoples, 65,000 years of culture, and should we give them a seat at the table on decisions that affect them? If in your heart you agree with those questions, the answer is simple. YES.

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United Workers Union acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website may contain images or names of people who have passed away. 

Authorised by J.Schofield, United Workers Union, 19-37 Greek St, Glebe NSW 2037