Statement on the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated, shortest-lived, and least materially wealthy populations in Australia. Contemporary Australia is built on the dispossession and subjugation of Indigenous people. It appropriates Indigenous culture when it is convenient and destroys it when it is not.  

In May 2017, over 250 Indigenous people from across Australia and the Torres Strait met at Uluru. The Uluru Statement from the Heart called for Voice, Treaty, and Truth. Australians will now vote in a referendum on whether to enshrine within the Australian constitution a First Nations Voice to Parliament as a first step. 

A Voice alone will not be enough to heal this country and will not solve Indigenous dispossession. The Australian people are merely being asked to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on issues that affect them. 

We note that yet another national debate about whether a subjugated minority should control their own lives has profound impacts on the mental and physical safety of those whose lives are being debated. We encourage GLAM workers to look out for Indigenous colleagues and friends, centre Indigenous perspectives, and above all to listen to and provide space for Indigenous voices – both in the lead up to the Voice referendum and beyond it in our everyday professional and personal lives. 

As the custodians of much of the country’s historical records, cultural artefacts, and the stories Australians tell about ourselves, the GLAM community has a particular responsibility at this time. Listening to First Nations voices in our own work means understanding and following the principles outlined in the Indigenous Archives Collective’s Position Statement on the Right of Reply to Indigenous Knowledges and Information held in archives. For many GLAM workers, our work also involves helping members of the broader community to understand events and processes happening today. Below we have compiled a short list of resources to help people trying to understand why the referendum is occurring and what it is about. 

newCardigan Committee, 11 September 2023

Further Information 

The Uluru Statement From the Heart: 

Indigenous constitutional recognition and representation (Parliamentary Library): 

Everything you need to know about The Voice (video, ABC):  

Guide to the Voice to Parliament (Deakin University): 

Your Answer Matters (AEC): 

Bundjalung-Yorta Yorta man John Patten explaining the Voice: