Australia Pushes for Landmark Indigenous Referendum in 2023

(Bloomberg) -- Australians could vote on changing the country’s constitution to set up a representative Indigenous body in parliament as early as August, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney told the Sun-Herald newspaper.

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The campaign is for a “voice to parliament,” which involves establishing a representative body to advise lawmakers on behalf of Indigenous Australians. The details remain unclear, but a Yes campaign is set to begin in late February. Enabling legislation could be drafted “sometime in March” before it is scrutinized by a parliamentary committee for six weeks, Burney told the Sun-Herald.

The government would aim to pass the legislation through parliament in May, allowing the vote to be held as soon as August and as late as November.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who has criticized a lack of detail surrounding the government’s proposal, said the Liberal Party would finalize its position on the vote early in the new year, according to the Sun-Herald. The National Party, which is in an opposition Coalition with the Liberal Party, has said it will oppose the referendum.

A record number of Indigenous politicians won parliamentary seats in May’s election, but leaders of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait community have called for a separate consultative body to advise the government.

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