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.


The focus for the last 15 years of Dr Ted Christie’s professional practice was Environmental Dispute Resolution: Litigation, mediation, independent expert appraisal, effective public participation, community consultation.

Material from the book, “Finding Solutions for Environmental Conflicts; Power and Negotiation”, for which Ted was the sole author, has been extracted in writing this article.


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