Voice Refendum

P O L I C Y   P O S I T I O N 

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament

Fusion supports the Indigenous voice to parliament and the Uluru statement from the heart.

Fusion Party recognises the reasonable arguments put forward by The First Nations No campaign, including valid concern of the Voice being insufficient; however, Fusion also views that far Right voices would leverage a No vote to create further division, with a goal to prevent the path to sovereignty and Makarrata (agreement or treaty). 

A Voice in Parliament could potentially provide a vehicle toward achieving sovereignty, whatever form that sovereignty takes. However, the devil will be in the detail and the fight to prevent the Voice from being tokenistic. The Voice should have the power to make recommendations on any matter before Parliament that the members of the Voice deem as important to First Nations. 


Background on the Voice


The Voice would advise the Australian parliament and government on matters relating to the social, spiritual and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Parliament and government should consult the Voice on matters that overwhelmingly relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as but not limited to native title, employment, housing, the community development program, the NDIS and heritage protection. The Voice also honours recognition of the right to political participation enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Voice Referendum legislation has passed both Houses of Parliament and will be put to a National Referendum on 14 October, 2023. The legislation enacted would enshrine the Voice in the Constitution so that the legislation will not be easily overturned, as occurred with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC; 1990–2005).

The Voice also differs to ATSIC in that it will not be responsible for administration of public funds or services, and will exist as a representative and advisory body to federal Parliament.


What would the Voice look like?

The Voice will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.

The Calma-Langton co-design report recommended the national voice have 24 members, with gender balance structurally guaranteed.

The base model includes:

  • Two members from each state, the Northern Territory, ACT and Torres Strait. A further five members would represent remote areas due to their unique needs – one member each from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. An additional member would represent the significant population of Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland. 
  • Members would serve four-year terms, with half the membership determined every two years. There would be a limit of two consecutive terms for each member.
  • Two co-chairs of a different gender to one another would be selected by the members of the voice every two years.

Members would be democratically elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

As an advisory body to the Australian parliament and government, the Voice would not get a vote in Parliament, deliver services, manage government funding, be a clearing house for research, or mediate between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.



The rationale for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is very strong. The rationale is explored from an First Nations perspective in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which proposes three actions for reconciliation:

  • Voice to Parliament First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Australian Constitution. This would ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a representative body that can advise the Parliament on matters affecting their rights, interests, and well-being.
  • Truth-Telling: acknowledging the past injustices, the dispossession of land, and the ongoing impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, fostering a deeper understanding, healing, and reconciliation within the broader Australian society.
  • Makarrata (agreement or treaty): The Makarrata commission would oversee negotiations and facilitate treaties or other formal agreements to address historical injustices and move towards reconciliation.

It is important to understand that the Makarrata Commission is the “culmination of the agenda” of the Uluru Statement. In reductive terms, a Treaty or Treaties is seen as the end goal. The Voice to Parliament is more of a stepping stone to the Makarrata. 


Fusion’s values and principles

Fusion’s six values are hierarchical and embedded. As shown below, the “lower” values are constrained by the “higher” values, while the higher values are informed by the lower values. This hierarchy helps address tensions that naturally arise between the values. For example, Advancement is constrained by deep ecology; while we want to advance society, we don’t want to do it at the expense of the natural world. Likewise, personal freedom is an ideal and informs all other values but it is also constrained or subordinate to the five other values.


Fusion’s principles help articulate the six values (image above), and reconcile emerging tensions.


The Voice and Fusion’s values and principles

Equity is the key value relevant to the Voice. These two principles directly support the Voice:

  • A necessary arrangement to be made with First Nations should be guided by First Nations to allow for the proper evolution and equity to indigenous cultures to prosper in their own right. Sovereignty is enabled. 
  • In fostering solutions to systemic issues, be unafraid to implement temporary forcing pressures on equitable outcomes (such as quotas) in the course of pursuing more fundamental (and more long-term stable) mechanisms.


The value of Safety offers two principles that directly relate to the Voice.

  • Security incorporates the longevity and confidence in safety of the person, but also confidence in security over their economic well being, their participation in society, security of access to minimum resources for life and a reduction of threat to their person, family, friends and community. 
  • Consideration to the outsized impacts of otherwise minor concerns must be given where those concerns impact children and vulnerable people. These concerns should be considered for extra protections, preferably of a systemic nature.


Views on the Voice

The “Yes” campaign 

Indigenous Empowerment

The establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recognizing their unique cultural heritage and ensuring their concerns and perspectives are heard at the highest level of decision-making.


Australia is one of the only Commonwealth nations with a settler history without a treaty with its Indigenous peoples. Constitutional recognition is the first step to acknowledging a history of injustice and affirming First Nations peoples' rightful place in our national story, a commitment to fostering a more equitable Australia 


Previous bodies such as ATSIC have had varying levels of effectiveness, but have always existed at the whims of political agendas. Constitutional recognition would make it harder for governments to escape their responsibilities towards first nations peoples.


The proposal aligns with the principle of self-determination, enabling Indigenous communities to have a direct say in policies and laws that affect them, allowing for greater autonomy and control over their own affairs.

Addressing Disadvantage

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament could provide a platform to begin addressing historical and ongoing disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, promoting policies and initiatives aimed at closing the gap in areas such as education, health, employment, and justice.

Cultural Preservation

It offers an opportunity to preserve and promote Indigenous cultures, languages, and traditional practices by ensuring that the Indigenous perspective is included in decision-making processes that may impact Indigenous communities.

The “No” campaign

Some First Nations arguments

It is important to acknowledge that there are some arguments against the voice both within and outside of first nations communities. However, as at April 2023, polling shows that at least 80% of First Nations support the Voice, while only 40% of non-Indigenous Australians believe a majority of First Nations people support the voice.

A view supported by a number of strong First Nation figures is that the Voice is only tokenistic and a treaty should come first. That it will just provide “diversion” or “window dressing” to prevent progress to the Makarrata; that politics has become too divisive for the Voice to perform its role with some pointing to the broken promises of previous reconciliation efforts by the ALP. Perhaps more importantly, if First Nations sovereignty is the goal, then embedding that sovereignty in the constitution of a foreign country doesn’t make sense. 

Fusion respects First Nations objections to the Voice; however, we believe that it will be a positive first step towards more meaningful influence, accountability, and real action. While there is much more to be achieved after the voice, the failure of this referendum would likely halt progress altogether

Other No campaigns

Many of the other ‘no’ arguments are driven by the Nationals, conservative think-tanks and media.

Preferential Treatment or ‘Dividing by race’

The Nationals’ No campaign argues that the proposal creates preferential treatment or privileges for certain groups over others and has been called “anti-democratic”. While this suggests that the Voice is something more than an advisory body, Fusion believes that it is justified to fundamentally recognise First Nations as an integral part of our society and history, deserving a dedicated and permanent place in our democratic institution. We can look to our neighbours in New Zealand, where Māori representation in Parliament through designated seats has been an established practice since 1867.

Australia is the only developed nation with a settler history that does not have a treaty with indigenous peoples. Fusion believes that First Nations would still deserve constitutional recognition if the atrocious gaps in outcomes did not exist today.

“They already receive a lot”

The ‘No’ campaign has put forward that Indigenous Australians already receive more largess from Australian Governments than non-Indigenous Australians. In a typical year, the Australian Government directly spends around 1.5 times as much on Indigenous people on a per-capita basis, or 1.64 times as much if indirect spending (via transfers to the states and territories) is included. However, almost 80% of this spending represents higher use of mainstream programs such as Medicare and social security payments. Only around 23 per cent ($3.3 billion) in 2015-16 was spent on Indigenous-specific programs such as ABSTUDY, Indigenous-specific health programs, or Indigenous rangers programs. As pointed out, this spending doesn’t appear to be closing the gap, so something else needs to change. The voice does not imply an increase in this spending, only stronger representation in deciding how to spend more effectively.

“Another layer of Bureaucracy”

Another argument from the National’s No campaign is that the voice will be “another layer of bureaucracy here in Canberra”. However, our governments currently run multiple, repeated consultation processes with numerous separate organisations. The bureaucracy already exists and is presently inefficient and ineffective. The Voice, by design, would streamline the consultation processes, be more transparent and more accountable. 

“Lack of Detail”

Some worry that the lack of detail may result in unexpected outcomes, or that people do not really know what they’re voting for, however while this argument ignores the significant detail that does exist. A constitutional change is not supposed to be fully prescriptive, it will mandate that the voice must exist and our representatives will have the power to create and change it.

Fusion’s position is that the government should not limit the Voice as to what is in scope for its role as an advisory body. That scope should be determined by First Nations as to what is directly relevant to them.

“A lengthy and complex process”

“Constitutional changes required could become a lengthy and complex process” is another argument put forward by the National’s No campaign. However, a lengthy and complex process is hardly a reason to not do something if the outcome is good.