Statement from the NAVA Board on the Voice

In the lead-up to the referendum, the NAVA Board encourages Members, subscribers and friends to approach your decision with respect, empathy, and a commitment to making an informed choice that reflects your values and concerns. 

On 14 October 2023, a national referendum will be put to a compulsory vote about whether to change the constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

In the lead up to the referendum, the NAVA Board encourages Members, subscribers and friends to approach your decision with respect, empathy, and a commitment to making an informed choice that reflects your values and concerns. We also encourage you to do your own research so that the burden of education and information is not, as always, laid at the feet of First Nations artists, friends, individuals and communities.

First Nations peoples have long called for increased autonomy, referred to as the concept of ‘self-determination’, but which can usually only be enacted within the framework of the Australian state. First Nations people simultaneously continue to call for complete sovereignty outside of the framework of the state and crown. 

NAVA supports all First Nations peoples and communities in their right to self-determination.  NAVA’s Code of Practice explains that self-determination includes the rights:

  • not to be discriminated against
  • to enjoy culture, lands and waters
  • to be economically self-sufficient
  • to be involved in decision-making processes that impact upon First Nations lives
  • for a community to govern and manage its own affairs. 

The concept of self-determination is an international concept. Article 3 of the UNDRIP states that Indigenous people have the right to self-determination. While the UNDRIP does not define ‘self-determination’, two key elements of the concept have been identified being ‘participation in decision-making and freedom from discrimination’. Australia has not yet implemented the UNDRIP into domestic law.

Next month, people will be asked to vote by writing 'Yes' or 'No' to the following question:  

“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?” 

For a referendum to be successful, a double majority must support it. For a referendum to pass, it has to achieve a majority of ‘yes’ votes nationally, and the majority of ‘yes’ votes in a majority of states. So, at least four of the six Australian states have to vote yes.

Researching and considering all relevant information before casting your vote is essential. To help you with this process, here are some general steps to take:

  1. Research the Referendum: Start by understanding what you're voting on and what the proposal entails. This includes understanding the purpose of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, its structure, functions, and how it aims to enhance the representation of First Nations communities. Familiarise yourself with the historical context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander efforts for recognition, reconciliation, and self-determination such as the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Barunga Statement, Larrakia petition, Yirrkala bark petitions, and the William Cooper petition.  
  2. Gather Information: Look for reputable sources of information such as news articles, official websites, policy papers, and independent analyses. Be wary of biased or unreliable sources. While opinions matter, base your decision on credible information rather than emotional appeals or misinformation.
  3. Consider Multiple First Nations Perspectives: Listen to and read First Nations peoples’ and organisations’ opinions and perspectives. They can provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and challenges of the proposed Voice. This will help you develop a well-rounded understanding of the topic and make an informed decision.
  4. Evaluate Consequences: Consider the potential outcomes of your vote. How might your decision impact the lives and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? Think about short-term and long-term consequences.
  5. Engage in Discussions: Discuss the issue with friends, family members, and colleagues, including First Nations people if they consent. Hearing different perspectives can help you gain new insights, deepen your understanding and refine your own thoughts. It’s okay to ask questions that can’t be answered by your own research.
  6. Attend Public Forums: Attend discussions, debates, town halls, and public forums where advocates for ballot measures present their arguments and answer questions.
  7. Check Your Voting Eligibility: Ensure you are registered to vote and aware of your area’s voting requirements and deadlines.
  8. Review Your Decision: Before finalising your decision, review the information you have gathered and consider if it aligns with your values and priorities. Avoid rushing your decision. Take the time you need to feel comfortable with your choice.
  9. Trust Your Judgment: Ultimately, the decision is yours. Trust yourself to make the best choice based on the information you have gathered.

The last referendum that Australia undertook was in 1999, and prior to that was in 1967. A referendum does not come around frequently, and will have lasting ramifications for the ongoing relationship between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians in this country, so it is critical that thought and time is put into how you will vote and why.


The following is a non-exhaustive list of perspectives on the Voice to counter racist mainstream rhetoric with First Nations voices. NAVA encourages people to research, read, and discuss this issue beyond the following resources.

Why I stand for Yes, and why that’s hard to say out loud, Claire G. Coleman, Crikey, 5 September 2023

The rest of Uluru’s promise, Claire G. Coleman, The Saturday Paper, 2 September 2023

The Voice and the importance of truth-telling, Daniel James, 31 August 2023

The media will play a profound role in the Voice referendum, but are they up to it?, Rachel Perkins, Crickey, 25 August 2023

Lidia Thorpe calls for referendum to be abandoned during National Press Club address, Jess Whaler, National Indigenous Times (NIT), 17 August 2023

What is the Indigenous voice to parliament, how would it work, and what happens next?

Lorena Allam, The Guardian, 14 August 2023

Q+A at Garma 2023, ABC, 7 August 2023

Sydney Ideas – Voices on the Voice: Marcia Langton, University of Sydney, 3 August 2023 

Yes or No – Australia is still guilty., Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, Indigenous X, 20 July 2023

Voice to Parliament: Why mob are staying silent, Chelsea Watego, Indigenous X, 19 July 2023

Depending on your reasons, it’s okay to oppose the Voice, Michael Mansell, NITV, 21 April 2023

Issues Paper on a First Nations Voice Referendum, Australian National University (ANU), 25 August 2023 

Framing the voice debate in terms of ‘special treatment’ is race-baiting – we must call it out, Tony McAvoy, The Guardian, 1 March 2023

What’s Indigenous sovereignty and can a Voice extinguish it?, Jack Latimore, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 2023

We have always had a voice, but we have never been listened to, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, The Guardian, 31 January 2023

Voting on 'The Voice': Will it fight racist violence?, Amy McQuire, Presence, 5 January 2023

An Indigenous Voice will mean politicians can't pick and choose the ones they want to hear, Thomas Mayor, SBS, 2 December 2022

Everything you need to know about the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Megan Davis and George Williams, June 2021

Finding the Heart of the Nation: The Journey of the Uluru Statement towards Voice, Treaty and Truth, Thomas Mayor, 1 October 2019

Detailed Outline of the Blak Sovereign Movement’s Position on the Referendum, Blak Sovereign Movement 

Treaty before Voice 

Further comments from individual NAVA Directors

Elected Representative - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Ryan Presley

Will I be voting in the October 14th Referendum? YES. Will I be voting Yes? YES. Is this the best credible action I have seen on the table for Aboriginal people in my lifetime? YES. 

Will a successful referendum give the federal government a mandate to pursue the Uluru Statement in full - which they have previously publicly stated they are committed to - the most important component of which is a federal treaty (Makarrata) process? YES.

Will a constitutionally protected consultation facility aid in the development of treaty negotiations? YES. Do I dread the potential consequences of a failed referendum? YES.

Elected Representative - Artist

Lisa Radford

I'm voting YES after careful research, discussions with friends, and seeking out information. It's time to listen, as an individual, as an artist, and as a contributor to culture. For the crucial conversations that we need to have, we must establish agreed-upon inclusive ways for this to happen, and also ways that ensure many voices can be heard. This change doesn't exclude; it expands and acknowledges what was often denied. The Uluṟu Statement offers an invitation to embrace a gesture, commit to the work, and move forward together in understanding our past, and the future. Yes to that.

Elected Representative - Artist

Michelle Vine

In the Referendum on the Voice I’m voting YES. This opportunity to enact constitutional change is a rare chance to make meaningful systemic progress toward a more equitable Australia. I say YES to First Nations peoples of this country having input and greater agency to help shape the policies and laws being made about them. For me this is an important personal decision that I have made after listening to and considering the perspectives of many First Nations’ friends, colleagues and organisations. I have thought carefully about what the impact of my vote may mean and I’m saying YES. YES to this credible forward-facing action in support of First Nations peoples’ human rights including the right to self-determination.