The Voice

This page provides information on the Society’s position on The Voice and Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples. 

The National Council of Australia supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart including Constitutional Recognition and The Voice to Parliament.

Our position mirrors the Australian Catholic Bishops and advances the principles of Catholic social justice.


Since 2007, successive Prime Ministers promised to advance reconciliation and recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples. The parliamentary history on Constitutional Recognition is long, with a referendum being supported back in 2015 by then Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP.

The upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be an historic event. There will be ongoing discussion and debate, and both sides will put forward their arguments. There will be diverse opinions and no doubt disagreements. As a democratic society, people are free to form their own views and inform themselves of the issues.

Please read below for information on how the Society determines its policy positions.

Uluru Statement from the Heart

Church Providers urge Australians to support the Voice, and to support one another

Our response

Allies for Uluru Coalition

We are a member of the Allies for Uluru Coalition.

Open letter

We are signatories to the open letter sent to Parliamentarians, urging them to support the Voice.

Our support

Our publication, The Record, contains articles on the Society's activities supporting Constitutional Recognition, the Uluru Statement from the Heart and The Voice to Parliament.

Frequently asked questions

The Society has a long history of advocating in support of Constitutional Recognition. Our position is not new.

In 2000, the Society developed Seeking a Shared Spirit, a social justice paper in support of Indigenous Reconciliation following on from Pope John Paul II's apology to Australia's First Nations peoples. The Society supported Constitutional Recognition in 2013 in response to the 2012 Constitutional Recognition Bill. This support was reiterated in 2014, in response to the 2014 Senate Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. In 2021, the Society’s position on The Voice was outlined in response to the Australian Government’s Indigenous voice co-design interim report. In 2022, the Society outlined its position in our Federal Election Statement, A Fairer Australia. And in 2023, the Society launched its updated policy paper on Australia's First Nations peoples during Reconciliation Week. 

With over 45,000 members and volunteers, processes have been put in place to obtain feedback and reach agreement on policy and advocacy matters, from the conference level up.

We are a membership-based organisation. Our members come from diverse levels of society. National Council consists of each State and Territory President and meets at least four times per year to discuss the Society’s operations and directions including governance, finance, risk and, importantly, advocacy. Advocacy is based on policy agreed to by National Council.

On advocacy matters, National Council is advised by National Council Social Justice Advisory Committee (NCSJAC) and the Vincentian Refugee Network. The NCSJAC comprises social justice representatives from the states and territories and meets at least three times per year. Social justice representatives are a conduit for information sharing on all social policy matters, from conferences to regional and state councils up. They raise issues of concern in their jurisdictions and provide evidence-based advice to National Council that reflects the membership’s views, Vincentian values, and principles of Catholic Social Teaching (pdf file).

We advocate on a wide range of social concerns that align with our charitable purpose and the original mission of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.

In supporting the Voice to Parliament, the Society is inspired by Ozanam’s Catholic solidarity with citizens who are vulnerable, and to create a more compassionate society.

During the lifetime of Frederic Ozanam (the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul) he experienced a world in which war, poverty, and politics ignored the suffering of the most vulnerable. In the age of post-revolutionary France and the Napoleonic wars, France had developed a strongly anti-religious intellectualism that viewed Catholicism with contempt.

As a brilliant university student and academic, Ozanam debated non-religious scholars. He faced strong intellectual opposition to his arguments. This criticism questioned Catholicism itself arguing it offered nothing to society, particularly the poor. For Ozanam, he rejected these criticisms. He not only argued his case, he also actively helped the poor and vulnerable of Paris.

For the gospel ideals of faith, hope, love, and compassion to inspire a more just society, good works had to be a true demonstration of solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. The Society has a long history of assisting people living in poverty, as well as supporting people seeking asylum, people experiencing domestic violence, people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and those living with disability or health issues. We also advocate strongly in these areas for change. Such positions are consistent with Ozanam’s founding principles and with Catholic Social Teaching. We believe in human dignity and the common good.

Advocacy on social justice issues is enshrined in our governing document, The Rule.

The purpose of our advocacy includes challenging the causes of human injustice and promoting a more just Australian society. For almost 170 years in Australia, the Society has helped people in need. Everything we do is informed by our Values of Commitment, Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Empathy, Courage and Advocacy. We do not align ourselves with any party. As a registered charity we are apolitical. The Society:

  • “…helps the poor and disadvantaged speak for themselves. When they cannot, the Society must speak on behalf of those who are ignored.” (Part I, #7.5)


  • “…aspires to be recognized as a caring Catholic charity offering “a hand up” to people in need. We do this by respecting their dignity, sharing our hope, and encouraging them to take control of their own destiny.”

A wide range of people from all levels of society, and backgrounds, support the Voice.

The Society’s position aligns with the views of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), who both endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Fifth Catholic Church Plenary Council of Australia’s First Decree, Reconciliation: Healing Wounds, Receiving Gifts, endorses the Uluru Statement and commits to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in working towards recognition, reconciliation and justice.

Six leading faith-based social services charities, including the Society, have co-signed an open letter to Federal Parliament, calling for support for The Voice and Constitutional Recognition. The other organisations include Catholic Social Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, The Salvation Army and UnitingCare Australia. 

A coalition of national religious and ethno-religious organisations has sent a joint open letter to all federal parliamentarians calling on them to cooperate across political divides in support of the upcoming Voice referendum. The national organisations represent Christian, Hindi, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhism and Jewish communities, supportive of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

All State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers have signed a Statement of Intent, signalling their commitment to ‘work collaboratively to support a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.’ They have also endorsed the principles for the Voice put forward by the Referendum Working Group.

In 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a petition calling on the Australian Government to implement “Voice, Treaty and Truth”.

The “Voice” refers to a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament, an advisory body to Government on policies and laws that impact the lives of Indigenous Australians. Constitutionally enshrining the Voice would provide recognition to Indigenous people and fill a gap in the Australian Constitution (Prof Anne Twomey). The purpose of the Voice is to allow Aboriginal voices to be consulted on matters that affect them.

If the Referendum is passed, it will be up to Parliament to determine how The Voice will operate.

The Voice to Parliament will not have any veto or judiciary powers and will not be a third chamber. The Australian Parliament will still have control over decision making. (Professor Tom Calma). While the referendum will establish the Voice, the Australian Parliament will still need to legislate the structure of how the body will operate. The referendum will enshrine the process but not the substance of the Voice to Parliament (Associate Professor Ron Levy)

The Referendum Working Group has agreed broad and inclusive consultation with First Nations peoples and communities is critical to ensure the final Voice model reflects the views of First Nations communities.

In December 2021, the Morrison Government released its Final Report on a co-designed model for The Voice. The report is accessible here

  1. The question that will be put to the Australian Parliament and then the Australian people is developed.
  2. A Bill which includes the words of the question is introduced to parliament and then debated and finalised by the parliament. A referendum will only be held if the Bill is passed in both houses (House of Representatives & Senate).
  3. Case committees are formed after parliament votes
    Parliamentarians who voted for the proposal form the ‘Yes committee,’ those that voted against form the ‘No committee.’ These committees are responsible for activities supporting a vote for or against the proposed alteration to the Constitution.
  4. Governor General issues a Writ
    The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ cases proposed by the committees are lodged with the Electoral Commissioner four weeks after passage of the Bill. These cases, along with a statement showing the proposed materials, must be posted to every voter on the electoral roll, no later than 14 days before polling day.
  5. Double majority required
    The proposed alteration to The Constitution must be approved by a ‘double majority,’ that is a national majority of voters in the states and territories, and a majority of voters in a majority of the states.

The latest information on progress of The Voice, developed by the Australian Government, is accessible here.

The Australian Government established the:

  • First Nations Referendum Working Group to advise the Government on how best to ensure a successful Referendum and focus on the key questions that need to be considered. 
  • First Nations Referendum Engagement Group to advise about building community understanding, awareness and support for the Referendum. 
  • a Constitutional Expert Group to provide legal advice on constitutional matters relating to the referendum

The Government introduced the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 in the House of Representatives on 30 March 2023 and established the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum (the Committee)

On 12 May 2023, the Committee tabled its report, recommending that the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 be passed without amendments. This report is available here.

On 24 May 2023, the Government released its response to the report, supporting the Committee’s recommendations. The Government rejected Liberal members’ dissenting reports namely that The Voice should not be adopted in its current form and while the Coalition will not stand in the way of Australians having their say on the proposal, the Government should amend the drafting of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 to address the significant risks identified through the Committee process. Finally, the people should never again be asked to vote on constitutional amendments that do not have the benefit of details public debate, in the form of constitutional conventions or similar. The Government’s response is available here.

On 31 May 2023, the House of Representatives voted 121 (Yes) 25 (No) to pass the legislation.

Catholic resources

The NSW Society has developed several factsheets on topics related to Reconciliation, including the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

A new life in Christ: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday Resources (2 July 2023), developed by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council. 

Catholic Social Services Webinar Series on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Moments for healing this country (11 May 2023)

One Journey, Together, prepared by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, the peak advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops. 

Explore the relationship between Catholic Social Teaching and the St Vincent de Paul Society (National Council of Australia) see John Honner, Dreaming as a Single Human Family (2021).

The Yes and No sides

Recognise a Better Way campaign chaired by Warren Mundine and the Fair Australia campaign chaired by Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, do not support Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples or The Voice to Parliament. Both groups have united to form Australians for Unity.

Read the official yes/no case pamphlets on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website.

Yes23 is a campaign for the Yes vote.

More information about Referendum 2023 from the Australian Government.

The St Vincent de Paul Society sponsors Anti-Poverty Week and they are supporting Voice, Treaty, Truth.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) videos

In July the CSS held a series of webinars called Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Moments for healing this country. 

You can watch the videos below; they are each about an hour long.

This message is from Bishop Mark Coleridge on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops, in support of the Uluru Statement From The Heart.

Authorised by Mark Gaetani, National President, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council.

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