What changes are being proposed?

We need to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people in the Australian Constitution, the nation’s rule- book.

We need to deal with the sections that allow for racial discrimination.


Calls for recognition have been made over many decades. The formal process examining how to achieve recognition has been underway since 2011. There have been two expert committees that have reported on the next steps towards a meaningful and successful referendum for constitutional recognition.

The current phase of work is the detailed development of a model to take to a referendum in 2017. This work is being undertaken by the Referendum Council, established by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten in December 2015.

The Council will conduct a concurrent series of Indigenous consultations and community-wide consultations in the second half of 2016, to get the views of Australians about the referendum and what the question should be.

The Council has agreed these proposals will form the discussion:

              • Addressing the sections of the Constitution, including section 25 and section 51(xxvi), that are based on the outdated notion of ‘race’,
              • Ensuring continued capacity for the Commonwealth Government to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,
              • Formally acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia,
              • Providing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body to advise Parliament about matters affecting Indigenous peoples, and
              • Providing a constitutional prohibition on racial discrimination.

Three consultative meetings have been held in Broome, Thursday Island and Melbourne, to discuss proposals for a model with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

On 9 August, 2016 the Referendum Council announced it would host further consultations with Indigenous communities and would create a digital platform to inform the whole community about work on model development.

The Referendum Council is distinct from the RECOGNISE movement. The Referendum Council will advise the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader on the progress and next steps towards a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution – including outcomes of the consultation process, options for a referendum proposal and possible timing for a referendum.

The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader together announced the Council and worked collaboratively to appoint its members.

The Council is chaired by Ms Pat Anderson AO and Mr Mark Leibler AC and includes the members; Professor Megan Davis; Mr Andrew Demetriou; Mr Murray Gleeson AC QC; Mr Mick Gooda; Ms Tanya Hosch; Professor Kristina Keneally; Ms Jane McAloon; Mr Michael Rose; Mr Stan Grant; Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM; Mr Noel Pearson; Ms Amanda Vanstone; Ms Dalassa Yorkston and Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM.

A referendum can be held once there is broad agreement on a model and enough support across the community to ensure the best possible chance of success.