Australian PM outlines draft to enshrine voice for Indigenous
Anthony Albanese has outlined for the first time a draft referendum to enshrine a voice for the Aboriginal people in the Constitution.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Saturday outlined a draft referendum question in an attempt to alter the constitution and establish a representative Indigenous body in parliament.
Indigenous peoples are currently unrecognized in Australia's constitution, and the move to enshrine a so-called "voice" - a consultative body to provide advice to the government on resolutions that would have an influence on the marginalized group - in the document would necessitate a nationwide referendum.
Speaking at an Indigenous festival in Arnhem Land, center-left leader Albanese suggested a draft referendum question to the Australian public.
Elected in May, Albanese had promised a referendum vote before his term ends in 2025.
"I believe the country is ready for this reform. I believe there is room in Australian hearts, for the Statement from the Heart," he said. "We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as: Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?"
"A straightforward proposition. A simple principle. A question from the heart," he argued.
A date for the vote was not revealed, so it remains unclear if the proposal will secure bipartisan support.
A Voice to Parliament would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to supply the Parliament with advice.
Albanese said he recommends in his "starting point" to add the following sentences to the Constitution:
There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The 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 the power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers, and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The 2017 statement was rejected by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative government.
Albanese said the Uluru statement is "about consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the decisions that affect you, nothing more, but nothing less", adding, "This is simple courtesy. It is common decency."
Australia has long been unsuccessful to close the gap between the health and well-being of its Indigenous people and the rest of the people, with soaring imprisonment rates among First Nations people and a life expectancy lower than the national average by eight years.