This resource was developed during the Voice to Parliament Referendum campaign. 

In October 2023, the majority of Australians voted 'No' to the Voice to Parliament being enshrined in the Australian Constitution. 

We will still continue to support the processes called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart — Voice, Treaty, Truth. We stand by our commitment of continuing to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities under the principles of self-determination and reconciliation.

Voice to Parliament 

If you’ve been tuning into the media, you’ve probably heard a lot of discussion around an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

On October 14, if you’re 18 or over, you’ll have to vote in a referendum about the Voice.

Your ballot paper will have the following question on it:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

You’ll either vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question.

Want to learn more? This resource is for you – it aims to help you understand how the Voice to Parliament referendum will work and what it’s all about.

Sign reads 'Always was always will be'

Explainer: Uluru Statement from the Heart

The Voice was introduced by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, delivered by 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders in 2017. 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to all Australians to walk together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the process of Voice, Treaty, and Truth-telling.1 

  • Voice. The constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a Voice to Parliament.  

  • Treaty. An agreement between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that recognises First Nations self-determination. Australia is one of the only countries that doesn’t have a treaty with First Nations people.2 

  • Truth. Telling the truth about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been, and are currently, treated in this country. Truth-telling allows us to hear, acknowledge and learn from the injustices and tragedies of colonisation.3 

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a call to action – with the Voice the first step in this process of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a greater say in the issues that affect them.17   

This is a picture of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

Australians are not being asked to vote on Treaty or Truth.  

This referendum vote is simply about the Voice.

For more information about treaty and truth telling processes in Victoria, check out: 

What is the Voice to Parliament?

The Voice to Parliament would be an independent group of representative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who give advice to the Australian Parliament on the policies and laws that impact their own communities.4 

The Voice is a form of representation many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have chosen for themselves,4 and is a step towards greater The ability for Aboriginal people to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development.self-determination.  

What would a Voice to Parliament look like? 

Australians are not being asked to vote on the Voice’s design. The design would beOfficially made into law, which can be debated and changed in Parliament.legislated in parliament after the referendum. That’s the usual process when new laws are made. 

And, if the referendum is successful, there’ll be consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the Australian public on what the Voice should look like.5 

The First Nations Referendum Working Group (made up of Indigenous leaders from across the country, and co-chaired by Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney)6 have agreed to the design principles for the proposed Voice. This means, if the referendum is successful, we know quite a lot about what the Voice will look like and what it will do.  

Design Principles of the Voice: 

  1. The Voice will give independent advice to the Parliament and Government. 
  2. It will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of local communities. 
  3. It will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender-balanced and include young people. 
  4. It will be empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed. 
  5. It will be accountable and transparent. 
  6. It will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.17 
  7. It will not have This is the power that allows a proposed bill to be overruled even if most of the government approves of it.veto power.

So, we know the Voice will be a body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who advise the government on issues that affect First Nations communities. And we know this body should be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, including remote, rural, and urban areas. These groups would work together to make sure local communities are heard on issues important to them, and their ideas are communicated to Parliament through the Voice.5 

The Voice design can be changed over time, depending on the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australians would not have to vote on these changes, because the design of the Voice is not in the constitution.  

Read more about the detail of the Voice.

Check your facts

This is an illustration of someone doing their own research about the referendum

We all know misinformation and disinformation is a thing and we all have a responsibility to check our facts, especially if you're getting them from social media. 

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is a trusted source and has set up a page which details referendum misinformation

The ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns have released campaign information promoting their cases. The AEC has released a single official pamphlet containing both cases and the wording of the proposed Constitutional change.

The ‘yes’ case has been written by those in favour of changing the Constitution to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

The ‘no’ case has been written by those against changing the Constitution to establish the Voice.8

These pamphlets are not fact checked. This means some information may be based on opinion rather than fact.9 

Some arguments might even have disinformation (that’s when the wrong information is shared on purpose to influence people’s opinions).10 

Check out the AEC disinformation guide to learn more.

Walking together

However you choose to vote, the referendum has the power to impact the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities.11

Racism is never okay. During this referendum process, watch out for and call out racist or harmful language.  

This is a graphic of someone putting Nan's racist takes into the bin

If you’re non-Indigenous, it’s not your place to tell Aboriginal peoples how to vote, and it’s not the responsibility of individual Aboriginal peoples to educate others.  

In any vote there’ll be debate and different opinions. Educate yourself on what the different arguments are from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trusted sources. 

You have the power to ensure racial violence under the guise of political and social debate is not tolerated. If you see or hear behaviour and words that don’t sit well with you against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, please stand up and calmly call it out. Elevate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in conversations relating to the constitutional recognition and the Voice to Parliament. Ensure that conversations you are part of are respectful, informed and not spreading misinformation. Above all, please remember that the rights, wellbeing and future of our Elders and our families are being discussed. 

– Joint statement from Aboriginal leaders from the Bendigo District Aboriginal Cooperative, the Dja Dja Wurrung Group, the Bendigo NAIDOC Week Committee, and the Reconciliation Committee, speaking to non-Indigenous people.12

While non-Aboriginal Australians have a choice to not engage or to walk away from conversations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot as the debate and the outcome will have a profound impact on our community. Please walk with us to ensure our community remains safe. 

– Joint statement from Aboriginal leaders from the Bendigo District Aboriginal Cooperative, the Dja Dja Wurrung Group, the Bendigo NAIDOC Week Committee, and the Reconciliation Committee, speaking to non-Indigenous people.12

Supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The Federal government has committed to spending $10 million to boost mental health support for First Nations people during the referendum campaign.13 

These supports include:    

24 hours/7 days a week counselling 

In an emergency, please call 000 immediately. 

Having conversations about the referendum

Sometimes, having conversations with others about the Voice to Parliament referendum can be challenging, but they can also be surprising, respectful and affirming.

Yes23 have created a resource that shows you how to approach having these important conversations so that this journey feels unifying. 

Find out how you can do this by accessing Yes23's Conversations Guide


How will the referendum work?

We are being asked to vote in a referendum on whether Australia should have the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.  

So, what’s a referendum all about and why do we need one? 

Translated resources on the Referendum and the Voice

We know the AEC is a trusted source on the referendum process. They have translated information in international languages and First Nations languages. The AEC also has Easy Read guides, and information for people who are blind or low vision.

What's a referendum?

It’s been a while since our last referendum (1999!) so you might want some info about what a referendum actually is. 

A referendum is a special vote used to make changes to the Australian Constitution. The Constitution forms the foundation of Australia’s system of government.14 

The Constitution can only be changed through a referendum – that’s because changes can only be made when the majority of Australian people agree.14 

This means we get to decide if the Constitution can change – and that’s through voting in a referendum. 

For the referendum to be successful, there must be a double majority to support the change. This means more than half of voters across Australia vote ‘yes’ and the majority of states (4 out of 6) vote ‘yes’.14 

Illustration of ways Australia's states & territories can get a double majority

Fun fact: the Territories aren’t included in the state vote as when the Australian Constitution was first adopted in 1901 – they didn’t exist! But the votes of all Australians are counted in the national majority, whatever state or territory you live in.15 

If there’s a tie, the Constitution will not be changed. Only a double majority counts as successful.14 

Illustration of getting a double majority in Australia, using ice cream cones

Want to know more? Referendum rules are outlined in the Australian Constitution, in Section 128.  

Why does the Voice need to be in the Constitution?

The Constitution sets out the laws of Australia. It was created way back in 1901 when the separate British colonies in Australia ‘federated’ to become a nation.14 
The Australian Constitution is our country’s highest authority on policies and laws.14 

There’s been national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory bodies before. The most recent one was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). It had limited powers and was ended in 2004 by the Howard government.7  

The proposed Voice would be different from previous advisory bodies because it will be permanent.4 

There are currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of parliament – but members of parliament are representatives of voters in their electorate and this means they usually have to be accountable to that specific location and most are members of a political party.16 
The members of the proposed Voice to Parliament would not be members of parliament. This means they would be able to represent the diverse views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.16 

If the Voice to Parliament is written into the Constitution, it will be a permanent group which can create long-term, practical change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It means the Voice to Parliament will be able to work alongside any government and have proper funding and resources.4 

By holding a referendum to change the Constitution, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are asking Australians to support their right to have a say in the policies and laws impacting their lives.

What are the stages of a referendum?
  • A bill outlining the proposed changes to the Constitution must be passed by both houses of the Federal Parliament, or passed twice (within three months) in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. If the bill is passed, a referendum will be conducted within two to six months.14 
  • During the first four weeks after a bill has passed, Members of Parliament who voted ‘for’ or ‘against’ the bill prepare their arguments, and lodge these with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).  
  • The AEC then presents the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases together in a pamphlet, along with the statement of proposed changes to the Constitution, and sends these to every registered elector at least 14 days before polling day.17 
  • After polling day, if the referendum is successful the change must be made to the Constitution.     

A referendum has to be held no later than 6 months after the legislation for it passes. Since this happened in June, this means the referendum will take place before the end of this year.


Enrolling to vote

Before this referendum takes place, you must be enrolled to vote. 

If this is your first time ever voting, you won't be enrolled so head to the AEC's Enrol to Vote page to do so. This won't take you long! 

If you're already been enrolled for elections, you're enrolled for referendums too. However, you must make sure your details are up-to-date. You can check them on the AEC's Update my Details page.

If you're unsure, visit the AEC's Check my Enrolment page. 

You can also request a paper form to do this.

What will you be voting for?

What the referendum ballot paper will say

On the 23rd of March 2023, Prime Minister Albanese announced the proposed wording of the question Australians will be asked:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”18

If the majority of Australians, in a majority of States vote in favour of the Voice, the Constitution would be amended as follows:

1. There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

3. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions powers and procedures.”18

By changing the Constitution, the Voice to Parliament will be protected from being removed by future governments.

The referendum will not ask voters to decide what this advisory body will look like, it’s simply a vote to say ‘yes’ to changing the Constitution to include a Voice to parliament, or voting ‘no’ to reject the change.

Voting on the day

If you're not familiar with the voting process, here’s some information to help.  

This information has been provided by the AEC.

Filling out the ballot paper

On the day, you will only need to fill out one ballot paper.  

The ballot paper will have the proposed alteration to the Constitution on it, followed by a question asking if you approve the proposed alteration. 

To indicate your vote, you must clearly write: 

YES in the box if you approve the proposed alteration, OR 

NO in the box if you do not approve the proposed alteration. 

Other marks, like a tick or cross, are considered ‘up to interpretation’ and may not be considered a valid vote. 

If you want to practise before election day, you can use the AEC’s online practise voting tool.

Remember, it’s okay if you make a mistake while filling out your ballot paper – you can simply ask for a new one! 

How to find my nearest voting centre

The AEC are in the process of updating their web tool which allows you to find your nearest early voting centre or polling place.  

You can vote at any polling place in your state or territory on election day – you don’t have to go somewhere in your electorate. 

If you’re travelling in a different state or territory to where you are enrolled, you still need to vote at a voting centre there. 

What happens at a voting centre?
  1. When you arrive at a voting centre, there will probably be lots of people trying to give you cards about how you should vote. You can take these cards and copy them or you can say no – it’s up to you! 
  2. When you get inside, an election official will ask you for your details, confirm your electorate and give you one ballot paper.  
  3. You will be directed to a voting booth so you can fill in your ballot paper privately. 
  4. Read the instructions on your ballot paper carefully and follow them so your vote can be properly counted. For more information, see our section below about how to fill out your ballot paper. 
  5. Submit your ballot paper in the ballot box and then you’re good to go! 

If you need any help, election officials are available to answer questions about the voting process. They can’t tell you who to vote for. 

COVID-safe information
  • Hand sanitiser will be available at polling places. 
  • Physical distancing will be maintained in queues and between voting booths wherever possible. 
  • Voters are encouraged to bring and wear a face mask if they have concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Every polling place will have a Hygiene Officer who'll focus on COVID-19 safety measures such as touch point cleaning and regularly sanitising used items such as pencils. 
  • There will be clean pencils available, and voters are also able to bring their own pencil or pen. Voters will be asked to deposit their used AEC pencil in the box at the exit of the polling place so that the pencils can be sanitised by the hygiene officer after every use.  
  • When taking people's votes in other settings, such as mobile polling at residential aged care facilities, the AEC will be taking additional measures including those required by the facility. 
  • There is no requirement that voters must be vaccinated for COVID-19 to cast a vote.  

Voters who become unwell before voting day should consider applying for a postal vote. You can apply to receive a postal vote up until 6pm on the Wednesday before voting day.

If it is too late to apply for a postal vote, consider taking reasonable safety precautions before attending a polling place to vote in person. These can include wearing a mask, bringing your own pencil or pen, physical distancing and limiting the time you spend in a polling place.

Remember to be kind and patient with staff who will be doing their best to keep voting centres both safe and efficient.

Accessibility information and options

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) provides assistance to disabled people to make sure voting is accessible. Ahead of the election, the AEC’s official election guide can be provided in braille, audio and large print. The AEC also has a series of Easy English guides. 

See all accessible voting resources and services

A list of voting centre locations will be published once this information is available.  

For reference, each location is given an accessibility ratings for: 

  • Wheelchair accessibility 

  • Auslan interpreting assistance 

  • Alternate quiet rooms for voting 

  • Hearing loops 

  • Text to speech pen 

If voting on election day will not be accessible for you, see our section below on early voting options – including early voting, postal voting, mobile polling and telephone voting. 


If you need audio and verbal options 

To learn about the election process with audio, the AEC website has a 'Read Speaker' button on each page that will read the content aloud. 

To cast your vote verbally, you can use the AEC’s phone voting service. More information will be available soon.

If you are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing 

You can contact the AEC via the National Relay Service (NRS). The NRS is available 24 hours a day, every day, and you can choose from one or more relay call types depending on what you need. Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing people can go to a voting centre which has Auslan interpreters or information in Auslan interpreted videos.  

A virtual Auslan service can be accessed at polling places using your own device. To access, visit this website.  

If you can attend a voting centre but cannot enter 

A polling official can bring you ballot papers outside for you to complete. There must also be a second witness – for example a friend, family member or support worker who comes with you. 

If you can complete the ballot paper yourself, they must give you privacy while you do so. After your vote is complete, your witness must accompany the polling officer to submit your ballot papers in the ballot box. 

If you want assistance completing your ballot papers 

If you want help to complete your ballot papers, there must be a polling official to help you and a witness – for example, the Officer in Charge. You will tell them how you want them to write your vote and they must not say anything that will influence your vote (even if you ask). You should also have the opportunity to check your ballot papers to make sure they’re filled out correctly. 

Auslan translated resource

Deaf Aboriginal Services and Expression Australia have collaborated to provide Auslan translation of key information around the Voice to Parliament referendum.

This is available to access now.

What if I can't get to a voting centre on election day?

In Victoria, early voting begins on Monday 2 October. It runs for a two-week period before the referendum takes place.  

You can vote early if on voting day you will be: 

  • Outside the electorate that you’re enrolled to vote in 

  • More than 8km from a polling place 

  • Travelling 

  • Unable to leave your workplace to vote 

  • In prison serving a sentence of less than three years, or otherwise detained 

  • A patient in a hospital and can’t vote from there (note some hospitals do have mobile voting options) 

You’re also eligible for early voting if you: 

  • Are seriously ill (including mental illness) or due to give birth shortly (or caring for someone who is) 

  • Have religious beliefs that prevent you from attending a polling place 

  • Are a silent elector. You can apply to be a silent elector if you believe that having your address on the public electoral roll could put you or your family’s safety at risk. 

  • Have a reasonable fear for your safety. 

If you’re overseas on voting day, you can vote at an overseas voting centre or by post. Find out more about what overseas voting centres are available.  

If you can’t get to a voting centre due to your disability, you may be eligible for any of the options in the next section. The AEC also has several resources and services available. Visit their page for more information. 

How to vote early

In person voting

  • Use the AEC’s Where to Vote tool to find your nearest polling booth.  

Remote voting 

  • Remote voting services will be rolled out across Australia from Monday 25 September. Find out more on the AEC website.  

Mobile voting  

  • AEC mobile polling teams (mobile as in they move around, not mobile phones) visit many voters who aren’t able to get to a polling place. They usually set up in residential care facilities, prisons and remote areas of Australia during the election period. 

Phone voting  

  • If you are blind, have low vision, or are working in Antarctica or on a ship that is in transit to or from the Antarctic, you can cast your vote through the AEC’s phone voting service

The registration process for telephone voting will be open from Monday 2 October.  

1. Call to register 

You need to call a specific phone number to register for telephone voting before you can vote. You will be asked questions to check your details on the electoral roll, and you will also be asked to choose a PIN.  

The relevant details will be updated once this information is available.  

2. Call to vote 

Once you have received your registration number and chosen your PIN, you will need to call the specific phone number again to cast your vote. 

When you call, to protect your privacy, you will be asked for your registration and PIN rather than your personal details to mark you off the electoral roll. This means your vote remains secret.  

Postal voting 

If you can’t get to a voting centre due to other barriers, you can apply to vote via the post. Postal vote applications close at 6pm on Wednesday 11 October 2023. 

You might be eligible for this for reasons like: 

  • Geographic distance including overseas travel 

  • Lack of available transport 

  • Caring responsibilities for someone who is seriously sick 

  • Religious beliefs 

  • Serving in the defence force


Additional resources
  1. Menzel, K. (2023, February). For a lot of First Nations peoples, debates around the Voice are not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The Conversation.
  2. Agreement Treaties and Negotiated Settlements. International Treaties. 2020. Accessed August 14, 2023.,treaties%20in%20Commonwealth%20settler%20states.
  3. First Peoples-State Relations. Truth Telling. Victorian Government, First Peoples-State Relations. 2021. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  4. Australian Government. (2023). Recognition Through a Voice.
  5. Australian Government. (2023). Design Principles of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
  6. Twomey, A. (2022, December). An Indigenous Voice to Parliament will not give ‘special rights’ or create a veto. The Conversation.
  7. Watson RA. Origins and Early Development of the Veto Power. Presidential Studies Quarterly.1987;17(2):401–12. Accessed August 14, 2023.
  8. Kildea, P. (2023, March). The referendum rules have been decided. What does this mean for the Voice? The Conversation.
  9. Beck, L. (2023, July). Why is it legal to tell lies during the referendum campaign? The Conversation.
  10. Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce. Disinformation and Misinformation.
  11. Hill, B., Uink, B., Liddelow-Hunt, S., & Bennett. S. (2023, May). What we can learn from the marriage equality vote about supporting First Nations people during the Voice debate? The Conversation.
  12. Bendigo District Aboriginal Cooperative., Dja Dja Wurrung Group., Bendigo NAIDOC Week Committee., & Reconciliation Committee. (2023, July). 2023 Referendum: ensuring safety of our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community [Media statement].
  13. Courty, A. (2023, May). Millions allocated to support mental health of Indigenous Australians during Voice campaign. ABC News.
  14. Parliament of Australia. (2023). Infosheet 13 – The Constitution.
  15. Northern Territory Electoral Commission. Referendums. Northern Territory Electoral Commission: Every vote counts. Updated July 11, 2023. Accessed August 16, 2023.,for%20a%20majority%20of%20states.
  16. Wood, AJ. (2023, March). A Voice to Parliament will not give ‘special treatment’ to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Here’s why. The Conversation.
  17. Parliamentary Education Office. Referendums and plebiscites. Parliamentary Education Office. Reviewed June 16, 2023. Accessed 16 August, 2023.
  18. Australian Government. (2023, April 20). Fact sheet: Referendum question and constitutional amendment.
  19. Anti-Discrimination New South Wales (2023). Referendum Resilience.
  20. Australians Together (2023). Voice to Parliament.
  21. Australian Human Rights Commission (2023). Voice Referendum: Understanding the referendum from a human rights perspective.