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Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice would provide a strong foundation for the urgent work needed to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities a direct line to parliament and executive government means we can draw from our lived experience to give practical advice to policy and law makers when federal laws and policies that directly affect us are being formed.
The Voice would enable all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members – many who have long been absent from government decisions – to have a seat at the table when decisions that impact us directly are being debated.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart (Uluru Statement) is an invitation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to all Australians. It was born from a series of regional consultations known as the Uluru Dialogues.
These dialogues were held across the country and culminated in the National Constitution Convention at Uluru in 2017.
Photo: Professor Megan Davis, Pat Anderson AO (co-patron Lowitja Institute) and Noel Pearson
The 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who attended and signed the Statement into place were selected by their communities from each regional dialogue across the country.
The Uluru Statement calls for legal and structural reforms of Voice, Treaty and Truth – Makarrata.
The first reform – Voice – would be achieved by amending the Australian Constitution to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. A constitutional amendment can only be achieved by a majority consensus of the Australian people, as recognised by a national referendum.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
– The Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Voice is one of three important reforms proposed by the Uluru Statement, all of which work together to create a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all Australians.
It would provide a national platform where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can provide advice on policies and laws for our peoples directly to the highest levels of Australian government, ensuring that these are genuinely shaped to meet our needs and aspirations.
As outlined in our position paper, it would bolster existing efforts to meet commitments outlined in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap by strengthening our peoples' leadership and ability to be heard by government in policymaking that impacts on our health and wellbeing.
The Voice will right historic wrongs and establish a sound basis for further progress towards health and healing for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the nation as a whole.
Place-based programs and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs), including Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHS) provide excellent culturally safe health support and services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by operating at a local community level from a holistic framework.
They do this on a regular basis and in times of crises. The outstanding leadership of ACCHS through critical health crises in 2020, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated that we have the solutions to health inequity in our grasp.
Community-led solutions to issues identified by community can achieve great success and outcomes for our peoples. As a national platform, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice will give our peoples and community members a direct line to the highest levels of government, so local knowledge and solutions are considered and contribute to policymaking. Our on-the-ground experiences can inform the development and/or reform of policies and laws so they meet our diverse lived realities.
Read Lowitja Institute's position paper: Vote from the Heart – Lowitja Institute Position Paper on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
Media release: 30 August 2023
The Voice is about ensuring that our peoples have a say, and that our daily realities are factored into government decision-making
– Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO Lowitja Institute
Understanding the referendum from a human rights perspective, Human Rights Commission.
The Voice key for Indigenous Australian's health, The Lancet, 2 September 2023.
Leading bodies echo welcome to confirmed referendum date, call for Yes vote, National Indigenous Times, 30 August 2023.
The Voice to Parliament "creates an opportunity to codesign a healthy future", InSight, 4 September 2023.
Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AO, Address to the National Press Club, 6 September 2023.
The MJA supports an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, The Medical Journal of Australia, 28 August 2023.
Podcast: Why The Voice is a health issue, The Health Report, ABC, 7 August 2023.
What do you tell your grandchildren? Together, Yes, August 2023.
Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2023: Truth. Rights. Response. 14-16 June 2023, video presentations.
The Voice: How other countries do it, 7am - The Saturday Paper, 28 August 2023.
Responding to Common Concerns about an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, Australian National University.
Opinion: The referendum campaign already has me overwhelmed. Here's how you can look after yourself, NITV, 29 August 2023.
Opinion: How Voice to Parliament will improve health outcomes, Cairns Post, 22 August 2023.
The Voice to Parliament: articles and resources, Croakey Health.
Lowitja Institute calls on Australians to vote ‘Yes’ to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, Croakey, 31 August 2023.
Referendum Community Organising Toolkit, Australian Progress.