“It is getting tight but we’ve set a timeline and by the end of this year I hope to be in a position to go forward.
(The) very critical and important issue of constitutional recognition needs its own oxygen and its own space.
It’s extremely important because if there is a division amongst indigenous Australians then an opportunity will be lost. We are going to have some strong opponents (to constitutional recognition).
We do not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians “
Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians by June next year at the latest, according to a timeline developed by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.
Mr Wyatt confirmed on Wednesday the Morrison government intended to hold a referendum by mid-2021 on the question of whether to alter the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Mr Wyatt told The Australian he wanted to present the required bill to the Australian parliament by the end of this year.
Once a bill to alter the Constitution has passed through both houses of parliament, a referendum must be held not less than two and no more than six months later. Asked if the referendum would be held in the first half of next year, Mr Wyatt replied: “At the latest.”
He wants to ensure the issue of constitutional recognition does not become confused with the indigenous voice to government.
Indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of a senior advisory group that is due to propose models for the voice at a national, regional and local level by June. After consultation, Mr Wyatt intends to legislate the voice. After that, he intends to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition.
Mr Wyatt said it was important to make progress on the voice, and then to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition, well ahead of the next federal election due by September 2022.
Mr Wyatt conceded that key supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart reject the constitutional recognition he proposes as merely symbolism.
The landmark 2017 Uluru statement called for an indigenous voice to be constitutionally enshrined, which the Morrison government rejected.
Mr Wyatt said there was a risk Uluru backers might campaign against a “yes” campaign on the grounds the referendum does not include a question about an indigenous voice.
However, he and others see a legislated voice as pragmatic and hope that by the end of this year there will be “a tangible outcome from the voice process” that could win over Australians who are deeply disappointed by the decision not to enshrine an indigenous voice in the Constitution.
“Reconciliation Australia when they were doing their barometers, showed that there was a 10 per cent rusted-on group who will never support recognition in any form. Then you have got those who sit on the verge of that who say as long as it doesn’t advantage a particular group over another, and then we’ve got this significant group of Australians who have got an open mind and the group that I am seeing it strongest in are young Australians under the age of 35.”
Mr Wyatt said he did not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians
“Indigenous Australians want their voices heard at all levels of Government and want to help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives.
This group will work on options to have Indigenous voices heard on the national stage and take a model to Indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders around the country to refine.
They will complement the work of the soon to be announced Local & Regional Co-Design Group to bring about real and lasting change for not just Indigenous Australians, but for our entire nation.”
The journey towards an Indigenous voice has taken another step today with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, announcing the membership of the National Co-design Group.
The Group will be co-chaired by senior Indigenous leader Dr Donna Odegaard AM who will be joined by 15 members to develop models for a national voice to government.
The National Co-design Group will also be co-chaired by a senior official from the National Indigenous Australians Agency to coordinate intersections with existing work and ensure any proposed models will work within established structures.
The group will be assisted by the Senior Advisory Group, co-chaired by Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO, who will continue to advise and guide the process and keep it moving forward.
See Part 2 below for details of the Senior Advisory Group
“Dr Odegaard is a welcome addition to this process and brings extensive experience in both the private and public sectors as well as a valuable network and a lifelong commitment to campaigning for the benefit of Indigenous people to advance this work,” Minister Wyatt said.
Co-Chair Dr Odegaard said, “we have an unprecedented opportunity through the formation of the Morrison Government’s Co-Design process to bring together the many voices of our people to express who we are, what we want, what we need and the direction we choose for the future for the benefit of all our people and the Nation”.
“We cannot expect to succeed in changing our future as Indigenous Australians if we do not bring each other along. Working together towards the same goal, within the same framework that we establish, gives us greater chance of success but we must expect hard work, determination and dedication.”
“We can do it, we just have to be genuinely committed. I have been committed to this for most of my life and I’m certain most of us are”.
The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:
- Dr Donna Odegaard AM
- Mr Jamie Lowe
- Mr Rodney Dillon
- Prof Gracelyn Smallwood AM
- Mr Richard Weston
- Prof Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
- Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
- The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
- Mr Damian Griffis
- Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
- Ms Fiona McLeod SC
- Mr Marcus Stewart
- Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
- The Hon Fred Chaney AO
- Mr Joseph Elu AO
- Ms Zell Dodd
Part 2 Senior Advisory Group
A Senior Advisory Group will assist, guide and oversee the co-design process for both a national voice and options to enhance local and regional decision making.
Members of the Senior Advisory Group have been appointed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, with the advice and input of the Group co-chairs, Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO.
Professor Dr Langton is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Calma is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
The Senior Advisory Group will help establish the two co-design groups who will develop the models to be tested.
Senior Advisory Group members
- Professor Tom Calma AO
- Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
- Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
- Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
- Ms Josephine Cashman (suspended )
- Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
- Ms Joanne Farrell
- Mr Mick Gooda
- Mr Chris Kenny
- Cr Vonda Malone
- Ms June Oscar AO
- Ms Alison Page
- Mr Noel Pearson
- Mr Benson Saulo
- Ms Pat Turner AM
- Professor Maggie Walter
- Mr Tony Wurramarrba
- Mr Peter Yu
- Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM
Minister Wyatt media release 8 November 2019 – Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Group
More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website, www.niaa.gov.au/indigenous-voice.