Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Early voting begins for historic Australian Indigenous referendum

Early voting began in Australia on Tuesday in a historic referendum to decide whether to enact an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

While the majority of Australians will vote on October 14, those who are unable to can vote at select polling centres right across the country from Tuesday, the BBC reported.

The Voice to Parliament was recommended by a historic document in 2017 called the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Drafted by more than 250 Indigenous leaders, the statement is considered the best — though not unanimous — call to action for reforms on issues affecting First Nations Australians.

It also lays out a longer process of treaty-making and truth-telling.

The issue, however has been a fierce topic of debate for years as country has not had a successful referendum in almost 50 years, the BBC reported.

If approved, the vote would recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country’s constitution, and establish a permanent body for them to give advice on laws.

For it to succeed, a majority of Australians need to vote yes.

There also needs to be majority support in at least four of Australia’s six states, the BBC reported.

The composition, functions and powers of the body, whose advice would not be binding, would then be designed and debated by Parliament.

Recent polling has shown a steady decline in public support for the Voice, but one poll on Tuesday showed the Yes side making ground for the first time in months, reports the BBC.

Australia last held a referendum in 1999, when it rejected the opportunity to become a republic.

Only eight of Australia’s 44 referendums have been successful — the most recent in 1977 — and none have passed without bipartisan support.

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