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This year Australia will vote for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Australians come from many lands. They have different backgrounds, beliefs, and speak many languages. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples were the first people to live in Australia. They are known as the First Peoples of Australia. They have lived here for over 65,000 years. Australia’s Constitution is a set of rules and laws of Australia. Our Constitution doesn’t recognise the special position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

This year, we can change the Constitution. Australians will have a chance to recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples rights, history and relationship with this land and to make sure that they can share their thoughts on laws and rules that affect them.

The Have Your Say campaign aims to ensure that First Nations Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians with lived disabilities make an informed decision about an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.


The Uluru Statement 

In May 2017, over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Delegates from all points of the Southern Sky gathered in Mutitjulu in the shadow of Uluru and put their signatures on a historic statement. The Uluru Statement From The Heart addressed to the Australian people invited the nation to create a better future via the proposal of key reforms. 

The Uluru Dialogue is bound to the sentiment of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its ambitions for a better Australia for everyone.

The Uluru Dialogue represents the cultural authority of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and leads community education on the Uluru Statement’s reforms of Voice, Treaty and Truth. The Uluru Dialogue is based at the Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Sydney.

Australia is a proud and diverse nation with a rich cultural heritage that dates back 65,000 years. The First Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, have deep connections to this land and have played a vital role in shaping the society we know today.

But despite this, our constitution, which is 122 years old, still does not recognize the unique and important contributions of the First Australians - it's time for that to change.




Download The Uluru Statement Easy Read Version

The 2023 Referendum

This vote will give all Australians the chance to come together and consider a change to our constitution that will honour and celebrate the rights, history, and ongoing relationship of Indigenous Australians with this land. It’s a rare chance to make a major positive impact now and for future generations.

Australia has been considering constitutional recognition for more than 15 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have asked that the form of recognition come through a Voice to Parliament, which will give advice on laws and policies that affect Indigenous people.

This is what the Australian people are now being asked to decide: Should we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in The Constitution, with a Voice?

A Voice will provide advice to the Federal Parliament about laws and policies, through a consultative policy making process that delivers meaningful structural change.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know and understand the best way to deliver real and practical change in their communities. 

When they have a say through a Voice, we can finally start to close the gap that still exists between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.





This Story Map recounts a history of Invasion, Protest and Political Developments that had led us to a referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament and in the Australia Constitution.    

The Invasion

Captain James Cook claims the land now known as Australia.

The First Fleet

Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet arrive at Botany Bay.


First ambassador

1700s - 1800s

Resistant fighter. 

NSW Governor implemented the legal principle of terra nullius in Australian law

The Proclamation of NSW Governor Richard Bourke in 1835 implemented the legal principle of terra nullius in Australian law as the basis for British settlement. This was 47 years after the arrival of the First Fleet.


Story of harbouring 4 convicts from the Second Fleet.

Maria Lock

In 1819 as a 14 year old won first prize in the NSW Anniversary Schools Examination

The Petition Queen Victoria

Exiled Tasmanian Aboriginal people on Flinders Island petition Queen Victoria about agreement made with Colonel Arthur.

An Australian Government Petition from Wurundjeri elder William Barak

‘We should be free like the White Population there is only few Blacks now remaining in Victoria ... and we Blacks of Aboriginal Blood, wish to have now freedom for all our life time’.

Aboriginal cricket team of 1868 tour of England

Aboriginal cricket team of 1868 tour of England.

The Petition from residents of Maloga mission

Petition from residents of Maloga mission (Yorta Yorta) to NSW Governor seeking land grants (residents soon after moved to Cummergunja reserve).

The Debates over a federal Constitution

Aboriginal people not involved and barely mentioned in Conventions.

Australian Constitutional Convention Held in 3 States

Constitutional Conventions are held in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

The Constitution Coming into Force

Aboriginal people continue to be forced onto reserves and missions under racial segregation acts known as ‘Protection’ legislation.

The Call for Ngarrindjeri Autonomy

David Unaipon calls for Ngarrindjeri autonomy over the Point Macleay reserve.

The formation of AAAPA

The AAPA is generally recognised as Australia’s first pan-Aboriginal activist organisation.

Call For An Aboriginal State

Unaipon calls for the establishment of an Aboriginal state.

Call For the Abolition of Protection and Control

Fred Maynard calls for abolition of protection and control of Aboriginal affairs.

Petitioning for Representation in Federal Parliament

Yorta Yorta man, William Cooper, petitions the King seeking intervention including representation in federal Parliament. The Commonwealth does not send it on to the King. Aboriginal man Joe Anderson, also known as King Burraga, calls for Indigenous representation in the federal Parliament.

Urge To Take Over Aboriginal Affairs

Urge To Take Over Aboriginal Affairs

Torres Strait Maritime Strike

Torres Strait Islander workers in the pearling industry go on strike and win, leading the Queensland government to establish Islander Councils that give Torres Strait Islanders some political representation and power.

Petition For Representation in Parliament

Yorta Yorta man William Cooper petitions King George VI for representation in Parliament.

Day of Mourning

The Australian Aborigines’ League and the Aborigines Progressive Association hold a ‘Day of Mourning’ on 26 January, the sesquicentenary of British colonisation of Australia.

Australia Aborigines League

Secretary of Australia Aborigines League Doug Nicholls wrote to Prime Minister Chifley seeking representation of Aboriginal people in the Federal Parliament.

Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement

The Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement is created (renamed in 1964 as the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders).

The Right To Vote

The right to vote in federal elections is extended to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Yirrkala Bark Petitions

The Yolngu Nation send the Yirrkala Bark Petitions to the Parliament objecting to the excision of land from their reserve for mining. They were not consulted and ‘fear their needs and interests will be completely ignored as they have been ignored in the past’.

Walk-off at Wave Hill

Vincent Lingiari and Dexter Daniels lead the Gurindji people in a walk-off at Wave Hill station, NT fighting for wages, land rights and self-determination.

Constitutional Referendum

A referendum is held granting the Federal Parliament power over Indigenous affairs and enabling Aboriginal people to be counted as part of the Australian population for constitutional purposes.

The NT Supreme Court rules against land rights

The NT Supreme Court rules against Yolngu land rights claim in the first significant land rights case in Australia.

Larrakia Petition

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) is established and the Larrakai petition is sent to the Queen.

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) established and later replaced in 1977 with the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC).

Land Rights Commission

National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC) established and later replaced in 1977 with the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC).

Racial Discrimination Act

Racial Discrimination Act enacted by the federal Parliament.

Creation of Land Rights in the NT

Commonwealth used its constitutional power to legislate land rights in Territory. This starts the push to use the power from the 1967 referendum to create national land rights.

National Aboriginal Conference

The Fraser government creates the National Aboriginal Conference.

Establishment of the NACC

The NACC (National Aboriginal Consultative Committee) is replaced with the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC).

Ella Simon

Ella Simon Through my Eyes book released. 


Call For A Treaty

Following nationwide consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the National Aboriginal Conference calls for a treaty to be negotiated between Aboriginal people and the Commonwealth.

Two Hundred Years Later

Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs hands down its report Two Hundred Years Later ... which recommends the government consider a treaty in consultation with Aboriginal peoples. The committee also recommends the insertion into the Constitution of a provision ‘which would confer a broad power on the Commonwealth to enter into a compact with representatives of the Aboriginal people’.

Lousy Little Sixpence

A look at how Aboriginal children were taken away from their families and given as servants to white employers as ruled by the Aborigines Protection Board in NSW in 1901.


The Barunga Statement

A second bark petition is presented to Prime Minister Bob Hawke by Yolngu man, Galarrwuy Yunupingu. The Barunga Statement calls for recognition of Aboriginal rights and for a national elected Aboriginal and Islander organisation to oversee Aboriginal and Islander affairs, and for the Commonwealth to negotiate a treaty. Prime Minister Bob Hawke commits to a treaty by 1990.

Establishment of ATSIC

The Federal Parliament creates a new independent statutory body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), after an extensive consultation period including 500 meetings with 14,500 people.

Breaking The Promise of A Treaty

Breaking the promise of a treaty, the government proposes a statutory Reconciliation process instead. In breaking the promise to deliver a treaty, the government says that Australians need to be educated more about Indigenous peoples. Australia commences a decade of statutory ‘Reconciliation’, with the federal Parliament enacting a law establishing the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The government deletes the word 'Justice' from the title of the Act which was the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Justice.

Uncle Lester Bostock Meares Oration

On 3 June 1992 the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island).

Native Title Recognised by the High Court

The High Court delivers judgment in the Mabo case, holding that native title survived the British acquisition of sovereignty.

Native Title Act

The Keating government passes the Native Title Act after months of pressure, protest and tough negotiations. The Government also promises a land fund to compensate those whose native title has been extinguished and a social justice package to advance reconciliation.

Recognition, Rights and Reform Report

ATSIC delivers the Recognition, Rights and Reform Report, which outlines a range of sweeping proposals for the Keating government’s social justice package, including constitutional recognition. The social justice package is never implemented.

Bringing Them Home Report tabled

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission tables the Bringing Them Home report, which examines the long history of racially discriminatory Australian laws and policies that resulted in the widespread removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Among its 54 recommendations is a call for an official apology from the Commonwealth Government. Prime Minister John Howard refuses to provide this.

Hindmarsh Island Bridge decision

The High Court of Australia hands down the Hindmarsh Island Bridge decision, which leaves open the possibility that section 51(xxvi) of the Constitution can be used by the Commonwealth to impose racially discriminatory laws upon Aboriginal people.

Constitutional Referendums on a Republic and New Preamble

Australia holds a referendum to decide whether to become a republic, and whether to adopt a new preamble to the Constitution which acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Prime Minister Howard proceeds with wording for the preamble that had been rejected by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and many Indigenous land councils.

The Roadmap For Reconciliation

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation delivers its Australian Declaration towards Reconciliation and the Roadmap for Reconciliation. The report reinforces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations for a treaty and constitutional change.

Abolition of ATSIC

Parliament formally abolishes ATSIC.

New Commitment to Constitutional Preamble

Shortly before the 2007 election, Prime Minister John Howard announces the government’s intention to hold a referendum to symbolically recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a new preamble to the Constitution.

Apology to the Stolen Generations

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd presents the Apology to the Stolen Generations. The Australia 2020 Summit is held, with the final report noting the ‘strong view that recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights needs to be included in the body of the Constitution, not just in the Preamble.

Yolngu and Bininj Leaders present a Statement of Intent to Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is presented with a Statement of Intent from Yolngu and Bininj Leaders, who express their desire for constitutional protection for traditional land and cultural rights.

Establishment Of The Expert Panel

Prime Minister Julia Gillard establishes the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution.

Referendum Council Established

Indigenous Leaders meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at Kirribilli House and issue the Kirribilli Statement. In response, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader establish the Referendum Council.

Expert Panel Report

After conducting community consultations, the Expert Panel hands down its report. It finds strong public support for constitutional recognition. The panel recommends removing existing constitutional references to race in ss 25 and 51(xxvi), inserting a statement of Indigenous recognition into the Constitution, giving the Commonwealth Parliament a new power to make laws about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, creating a constitutional ban on racial discrimination and inserting a provision recognising Indigenous languages.

Recognition Act

The Gillard government, with support from the Opposition, passes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013, to provide an interim form of recognition of Aboriginal people.

Joint select parliamentary committee formed

Parliament forms a joint select parliamentary committee, chaired by Senators Ken Wyatt and Nova Peris, to advance the work of the Expert Panel.

First Nations Constitutional Dialogues

The Referendum Council runs 13 First Nations Regional Dialogues to discuss options for constitutional reform, and to ensure that Aboriginal decision-making is at the heart of the reform process.

Recommendation for Co-design

A Joint Select Committee of Parliament to consider the work of the Referendum Council, chaired by Senators Patrick Dodson and Julian Leeser, undertakes its work. In its final report, it finds the Voice is the only viable recognition proposal and recommends that the government ‘initiate a process of co-design [of the Voice] with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.

Co-Design Process

In the pre-election budget the government commits $7m to a Voice co-design process and $160m to running a referendum. Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, announces a ‘co-design’ process to determine the structure and functions of the Voice. The constitutional enshrinement of the Voice was excluded from the terms of reference.

Sydney Peace Prize

The interim report on the Indigenous Voice Proposal is released. Stage two of the ‘co-design’ process commences, inviting feedback on the proposals on the design of the Voice. The Uluru Statement wins the Sydney Peace Prize with co-laureates Pat Anderson, Megan Davis and Noel Pearson.

Anthony Albanese is elected as the new Prime Minister of Australia

The Labor Leader Albanese reconfirms his commitment to implement the Uluru Statement in full during his victory speech upon the Australian Labor Party defeating the Liberal National Party in the May federal election.

The Voice

2023 Referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. 


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