Australia’s indigenous people still live on the fringes of society today. Although they make up a significant portion of the population, Aborigines lack direct political say. However, a forthcoming referendum could change this long-standing predicament.
Canberra, the seat of government in Australia, brought promising news. Significant progress was made in the discussion about greater political participation by the indigenous population: the House of Representatives decided with a convincing majority in favor of a referendum on changing the constitution. The campaign runs under the banner “Voice to Parliament” – If a majority of voters agree, the indigenous people would finally get their own voice in Parliament.
Of the nearly 26 million people on the continent, almost a million are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, the indigenous people of the islands of the same name. They remain politically unrepresented and are often excluded from the white majority society, living on the fringes of social life.
The initiative for the “voice referendum” came from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who pushed it forward after his electoral triumph twelve months ago. A staggering 121 MPs voted in favor of the referendum, with only 25, mostly conservative politicians, voting against. Linda Burney, Minister for Indigenous Australia, made it clear that political representation for Aboriginal people would make a significant difference, particularly in the areas of health, education and housing. In these sectors, the indigenous population continues to experience severe disadvantages.
The proposed constitutional amendment provides for an advisory body made up of Indigenous Australians to support the government on issues affecting Indigenous people. The members of this body are to be appointed by Aboriginal representatives, not by the government itself. However, before the referendum can take place, the Senate, the lower chamber of Parliament, must give its approval. An exact date for the vote is yet to be announced, but it is expected to take place in October or November.
The Aborigines, who settled Australia 65,000 years ago, have lived through a turbulent history. With the arrival of the “First Fleet” from England in 1788 and the colonization that followed, Aboriginal children were snatched from their families for decades and had to grow up in foster homes or with white families. They became known as the “stolen generation”. The indigenous people were not mentioned in the 1901 constitution and only received civil rights in 1967.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.