Robert Griffith | 5 September 2023
Robert Griffith
5 September 2023


We have 46 days left before every Australian over the age of 18 will be required to vote in a very important referendum. No doubt you have already been exposed to a lot of information, rhetoric and even vitriol from the ‘yes’ camp and the ‘no’ camp.  One of the slogans being tossed around by the ‘no’ campaign is, “If you don’t know, vote no!”  This speaks to the confusion many people feel about what ‘The Voice to Parliament’ really means and how it will work if the referendum is successful. The ‘yes’ campaign is now trying to counter that slogan with their own: “If you don’t know, find out!”

Of course, the real challenge of this referendum is that a lot of the detail of how this new advisory body will work and impact the decision-making processes of government are simply not known. So, to tell us to ‘find out’ things which are simply not decided yet is a little simplistic and naïve. However, there is a LOT we can know and should know if we want to be fully informed. A lot of people I have spoken to haven’t even bothered to find out the wording which will be added to our Constitution if this referendum succeeds.  So, I have included those details in this Blog.

I have then included a number of resources for your attention and serious consideration. Many people have already decided how they intend to vote next month, but I want to challenge each and every one of my fellow Aussies to make sure you have listened to both sides of this debate with an open mind. Surely, we all want what is best for our whole nation here and to stubbornly refuse to examine the full breadth of this issue is irresponsible.

So, I want to encourage you to take the time over the next couple of weeks to examine all the resources I have included here and then decide what you think is the best way forward for our nation.

The Referendum 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?”

The Constitutional Amendment:

If this Referendum is passed, a new section will be added to the Australian Constitution as follows:

“Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

  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.”

How will the votes be counted?

A referendum is only passed if it is approved by a majority of voters across the nation and a majority of voters in a majority of states – this is known as a double majority. ACT and NT voters are only counted in the national majority. Therefore, more than 50% of voters across the nation need to vote YES  for the referendum to succeed. If more than 50% of the voters across the nation vote YES, then at least four States need to register more than 50% of YES votes for the referendum to finally pass.


Tim Costello is well known in our nation as a leader in the Church and the community. He has served as a Baptist Pastor, a denominational mission leader, the head of World Vision Australia and a passionate anti-gambling campaigner and social commentator on a range of really important issues. Tim is well respected across the nation and has recently written an open letter to all Church leaders in our nation, calling for us to support the ‘yes’ vote in this referendum. I would encourage you to read Tim’s letter HERE.

Murray Campbell describes himself as “a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, Pastor of Mentone Baptist Church in Melbourne, and formerly a classical pianist.” Murray also has a very popular Blog which has attracted a lot of interest over the years and most recently as he has bravely ventured into this debate. To read one of Murray’s recent posts, please click HERE.

Michael Jensen is the Rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, in Sydney. He previously taught theology and Church history at Moore College for 10 years, and completed his doctorate at Oxford University, which was published as Martyrdom and Identity: The Self on Trial. He has published a number of other books, including Reformation Anglican Worship, and My God, My God – Is it possible to believe anymore? He podcasts with Megan Powell du Toit at With All Due Respect. Whilst Michael is supporting a ‘yes’ vote in this referendum, I believe his article HERE is one of the more balanced pieces I have read in recent days. There are also many more resources in his footnotes for those who wish to dig deeper.


John Anderson is former Australian politician and now commentator who served as the 11th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the National Party from 1999 to 2005. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 2007, serving as Minister for Primary Industries and Energy from 1996 to 1998 and Minister for Transport and Regional Development from 1998 to 2005 in the Howard government. After politics, John has been published for his views on civic freedoms, global food security, modern slavery and the economy. In 2017 he launched a web-based interview program, Conversations with John Anderson, featuring interviews with public intellectuals. John has recently released two videos in which he addresses his serious concerns about the proposed changes to our Constitution which will occur if the up-coming referendum is successful.  I commend John’s measured, wise approach to this issue and encourage you to watch his videos HERE.

One of the most serious concerns in this debate is how the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory appear to have been side-stepped and left out of this whole process. Arguably the most traditional of all Aboriginals in our nation, many of whom don’t even speak English well and are still living within their own cultural bubble, these people have not really been consulted and have had little or no input into this debate. Click HERE to see what one of the Uluru elders has to say about this whole process.

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is a Senator in our Federal Parliament and a proud indigenous woman. In this video, Jacinta speaks from her heart and from her personal journey as she attempts to shed some light on this whole issue and pleads with all Aussies to see look very carefully at what is being asked of us in this referendum. Click HERE to listen to what Senator Price has to say.


Chris Owen and Melissa Hanna are Perth-based lawyers with the law firm Norton, Rose, Fulbright.  As part of their pro bono commitment to supporting First Nations people in Australia, they have provided a detailed explanation for your consideration.  Click HERE to read their comments.

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