Australia Today

Australians Support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, Even Without Detail

A new survey shows clear majority support among eligible voters—but analysts say some could soon become confused about its “practical benefits”.
Garma Festival
Photo by Tamati Smith / Getty Image

In the face of an impending referendum, a clear majority of Australians have thrown their support behind promises of an Indigenous Voice to parliament. Now, the ‘Yes’ campaign is trying to figure out how to show them it might work. 

On Monday, the vote ‘Yes’ campaign for a Voice to Parliament—flying under the banner, “History is calling”—made some of its earliest material steps towards drumming up broad support for an amendment to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, with the release of a new TV ad. 


In it, actor Trevor Jamieson tells a circle of kids sitting before him how First Nations people of Australia came to get a Voice, after speaking in more than 363 languages for over 60,000 years. When asked by one of the kids if the story is true, Jamieson says, “It could be.”

The ad features many of the same themes that have underpinned public messaging in support of a Voice to parliament since prime minister Anthony Albanese took office in May: hope, self-determination, and unity. 

And in the campaign’s early stages, voters seem to be responding. 

According to a new Resolve Political Monitor survey commissioned by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 64 percent of Australians were in favour of a Voice, while just 36 percent were against.

The poll took “yes” or “no” questions presented as they would be in an actual referendum vote to 3,618 eligible voters across Australia through August and September. While the survey’s results offer the ‘Yes’ campaign a boost of momentum, analysts say they also reveal vulnerabilities. 

Key to maintaining momentum, they say, will be shoring up support from both sides of politics, and communicating the “practical” benefits of a Voice to voters.

Giving a landmark speech at Garma Festival on Arnhem Land in late July, Albanese said Australians would be asked a “simple and clear” yes or no question at the referendum. The question, he suggested, could be: “Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”


The change could see the addition of three sentences to the Australian constitution. They might be:

  • There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Consultation on the wording of Albanese’s proposed amendments, and the wording of the referendum question itself, is being led by the Indigenous law centre at the University of NSW. 

For proponents of the ‘Yes’ campaign, the “practical” benefits are obvious and shouldn’t need to be pitched. 

Shonteia Warradoo, an 18-year-old Umpila, Kuuku ya’u and Bundjalung woman from Meanjin, Brisbane, told VICE the campaign boils down to the basic amenities and infrastructure First Nations people have been denied for more than 200 years.

“My community doesn’t have access to safe water, developed roads, stable reception; access to established health institutions, or even affordable groceries to feed themselves,” Warradoo said. 

“A Voice would elevate these issues, so mob don’t have to leave country to access these resources for a more comfortable life that the rest of Australia is afforded to every single day.”


Access to clean water is an issue pervasive throughout remote Indigenous communities across the Australian mainland, as it is in the Torres Strait, along with access to physical and mental health practitioners, family services and functioning community infrastructure. 

But details related to whether or not the body would be elected, or just how representative the Voice as a body would be, have so far been swatted away by the prime minister and his cabinet. As a result, the ‘No’ campaign has been able to leverage national debate. 

Last week, opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Voice was an “important issue” but accused the government of making “a lot of this up” on the run. Even still, Linda Burney, minister for Indigenous Australians, said she remains “encouraged” the Liberal party leader is keeping an “open mind”. But Dutton isn’t alone in standing opposed.

The government is fending off criticism on the right from newly-elected Country Liberal party senator for the Northern Territory, Jacinta Price, who argues there are more pressing issues facing Indigenous communities than a constitutionally enshrined Voice to parliament. On the left, the government is also facing criticism from the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe, who argues that a Treaty should come first. 

All told, though, young campaigners are confident that consultation on how the body will operate, and the language presented to Australians when it’s time to vote, will be enough to give them peace of mind. 


Trinity Clarke, a 21-year-old Kuku Yalanji, Kuku Nyungkal, Lama Lama, Ayapathu woman from Mossman, Queensland, told VICE she understands that people might be confused or scared.

“We’re scared too, and we have so much to lose,” Clarke said. “We are putting our hope on the line.”

“How demoralising would it be for our mobs to put so much energy into something because we are hopeful to be unified as a country, because we are hopeful for our future, because we are hopeful for our children, and children’s future,” she said. 

“How demoralising would it be for that to fall through after all this?”

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