An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament: why it matters for Australia’s Indo-Pacific relationships

By Paul Holland

It’s clear in 2023 that the Australian Government wants a 21st century foreign policy that reflects the nation – for that, it not only needs the perspectives of First Nations People, but also a mechanism for those perspectives to be officially heard.

Debate surrounding the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament has focused largely on how such a change could impact executive government. But there’s been little public discussion about how this referendum might affect Australia’s ability to prosecute effective foreign policy in the region.

In our latest Indo-Pacific Analysis Brief, Perth USAsia Centre Indo-Pacific Fellow (Indigenous Foreign Policy), Paul Holland, explores the level of international interest in the referendum and how the result of the vote might be interpreted by the region.

Key Messages:

  • On 14 October 2023, Australia will vote in a referendum to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in the Constitution

  • While the domestic debate on the potential impacts of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice has been covered extensively, there has been little debate on why it matters to Australia’s Indo-Pacific relationships

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are Australia’s first diplomats and a ‘Yes’ vote will support the Australian Foreign Minister’s agenda to develop a First Nations Foreign Policy, while a ‘No’ vote could undermine Australia’s international legitimacy and soft diplomacy at a critical time for Australia’s Indo-Pacific relationships.
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