The Referendum Controversy: Understanding the Meaning of Community Consultation and Its Application to the Indigenous Voice Process (Posted 26 August 2023)

KEY WORDS: Australia; referendum; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice; Essential Report; rights; privileges; consultation; decision-making; dispute resolution; public law; duties; judicial review

1.0   Based on information in the public domain, the Indigenous Voice process will be about consultation to provide advice to Government on matters that directly affect the Indigenous community. The Voice process appears to mimic the existing community consultation process in Australia.

2.0 A Google search on the question, “Is the Voice process similar to community consultation” is significant as it turns up a remarkable number of around 300,000,000 results.

3.0 Any evaluation of this issue requires an understanding of the meaning of community consultation, given the divergent opinion that exists.

4.0 An obligation for Government to consult can arise as a statutory duty, the proposed pathway for the Voice process. It is also a pathway adopted by Government for community consultation to obtain advice from all Australians on matters that impact on them.

5.0 The challenge for Government is to enable “full and effective participation by Indigenous peoples in all matters that concern them.”

6.0 In this regard, recent polling  on the outcome of the referendum is relevant as  it identified a reason why 42% of those polled may vote “No”: -

Because “It will give Indigenous Australians rights and privileges

that other Australians don’t have?”

7.0    In terms of the referendum question, concerns whether similar rights and privileges apply for community advice and opinion, the decision-making process, and dispute resolution - for both the Voice process and community consultation - need to be clarified.

The challenge for Government would be facilitated

if the “rights and privileges,” for the Voice Process

were similar to community consultation.



“Dr. Ted Christie, Barrister and Mediator, Queensland Bar, says it is prudent for the Government agency to recognise the Indigenous community as an expert agency with respect to evaluating aspects of the use of natural resources that relate to their legal rights.

Christie also acknowledges the Government's recent statement of support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [2007], which promotes, amongst other things, the full and effective participation by Indigenous peoples in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development."

From the press release for the National Native Title Law Summit hosted by LexisNexis,2009, July 2009



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