The Australian government has released the wording of a referendum question that aims to grant the nation’s Indigenous population greater influence over policies affecting their lives. The constitutional amendment, set for a vote between October and December, would establish a new body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. This elected group would advocate for Indigenous interests but would not have a say on laws.

Emphasizing the urgency to address Indigenous disadvantage, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his support for the proposed body. The Voice was initially proposed in 2017 by a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocates. Indigenous lawyer Megan Davies, who consulted with grassroots communities to develop the proposal, hailed the decision on the referendum question as a historic day.

Indigenous Australians, including those from the Torres Strait archipelago and the mainland Aboriginal population, account for 3.2% of the population and are the nation’s most disadvantaged ethnic group. Albanese cited numerous disparities, including a 10-year gap in life expectancy, higher suicide rates, and overrepresentation in prisons.

The referendum question, which is similar to the wording proposed by Albanese last year, asks whether voters approve a constitutional alteration to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. If successful, the constitution would state that the Voice may make representations to the Parliament and government on matters related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Although opinion polls indicate that most Australians support the Voice concept, deep divisions persist across the nation. Opposition leader Peter Dutton and his conservative Liberal Party have yet to decide whether they will support the Voice, requesting more detail, including the government’s legal advice.

Source: AP News