Australians are set to vote in a referendum on establishing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the second half of the year.
While an official start to the campaigning has not yet begun, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called on the Labor government to release more detail about the Voice before Australians vote.
Here is what we do know about the Voice to Parliament and the referendum so far.
What is the Voice to Parliament?
In 2017, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates from across the country signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a petition calling on the government to implement "Voice, Treaty and Truth".
"Voice" refers to a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament, a proposed permanent advisory body that would provide recommendations to the Federal Parliament and the government on policies and laws that impact the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Key adviser to the government on the Voice and University of Canberra Chancellor, Tom Calma said the Voice gives Indigenous Australians a say in the laws that affect them.
"What we're trying to do is to work with the government of the day and the bureaucrats to make sure that we get better services, more efficient, more effective services for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people".
How would it work?
Over the years, there have been many reports into what a possible Voice to Parliament would look like and how it could be established, including the most recent report in 2021, commissioned by the previous Morrison government.
Indigenous academic Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Calma co-chaired the senior advisory group that presented the Coalition government with the Indigenous Voice Co-design process report in 2021.
While the report does not consider constitutional recognition of the advisory body, it does lay out a possible model and structure for the Voice to Parliament.
The Langton-Calma report proposes a national Voice to Parliament which consists of 24 appointed members, two from each state, territory and the Torres Strait islands, plus an extra remote member for NSW, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia and one member for mainland Torres Strait Islander people.
The government has established a referendum engagement group and a working group, who are providing advice to the government on when and what information is released publicly.
Professor Calma, a member of the referendum working group, said "we've got a couple more meetings to go before more information will be released".
What is the referendum on?
The referendum will decide whether Australians want the advisory body to be enshrined in our constitution, meaning the Voice would be made permanent. However, the structure and model of the Voice would have to be decided by Parliament.
While at the Garma Festival in July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the draft wording of what would be added to the constitution, and the referendum question.
The draft referendum question is "Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?"
The final referendum question will need to be agreed to in Parliament.
What are the proposed changes in the constitution?
The possible additions to the constitution Mr Albanese announced at Garma were:
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to Parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
- The Parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Constitutional expert Professor Anne Twomey said it is not reasonable for the structure of the Voice to be included in the constitution and it is a matter for Parliament to decide.
She said similar changes to the constitution have occurred when Parliament was given power to make laws about unemployment benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits and family allowances.
How will the Voice be created?
While the referendum will establish the Voice, Parliament will still need to legislate the structure of how the body will operate.
Associate professor at ANU Law School Ron Levy said the referendum would "enshrine the process, but it wouldn't enshrine the substance" of the Voice to Parliament, allowing the structure of the Voice to change without the need for another referendum.
Professor Twomey said it should be the job of Parliament to decide on the detail of the Voice.
"A lot of the people have been complaining that they don't know the detail are precisely the people who will be in Parliament and who will determine the detail," she said.
This also means the government could legislate the Voice without a referendum, which Mr Albanese has not ruled out if the referendum fails.
The previous Coalition government was looking to take this approach and former prime minister Scott Morrison supported legislating the Voice without constitutionally recognising it.
Why change the constitution?
Professor Twomey said constitutionally enshrining the Voice provides recognition to Indigenous people and fills a gap in the Australian constitution.
She said a successful referendum puts political pressure on both the government and the Indigenous people involved in the Voice to make the body work.
"One of the reasons we've had problems before [is] bodies are created, and then the bodies sort of die away and that's because there's no strong incentive on both sides to actually make the thing work properly and so you can just leave it to die a death of neglect and that has happened in the past."
Bodies like the National Aboriginal Conference and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission have previously been created and abolished.
How much power will it have?
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton previously called the Voice a "third chamber" of Parliament and has raised concerns about how much power it will have over Parliament and government decisions.
Professor Calma said the body would not have veto or judiciary powers and Parliament will still have control over decision making.
"It is an advisory body, it is no different to the advice that other parties give to the government be they the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission, all of these parties provide advice to the Parliament. It doesn't have to be taken on board."
Professor Twomey also said the proposed constitutional amendments only give the Voice power to make representations to Parliament, meaning the Parliament does not have to consult the Voice if it does not want to.
Who supports it and who does not?
The Labor Party supports the Voice, however Mr Albanese has said the party will not be running the yes campaign.
The Liberal Party is yet to announce if they will support the Voice, with Mr Dutton calling for more detail.
Indigenous lawyer Noel Pearson accused the Liberal Party of playing a "spoiling game" and that calls for detail are "a diversion".
The Greens have also not yet announced their position, but have previously called for the government to prioritise "Truth" in the form of a Makarrata Commission and a treaty with Indigenous people before the Voice.
Greens' spokesperson for Indigenous issues, Lidia Thorpe, was one of seven delegates who walked out of the Uluru convention in 2017 over concerns creating the Voice would cede sovereignty.
Indigenous groups are also not in unanimous agreement about supporting the Voice, with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy announcing they will vote no in the referendum.