Media Releases → 2023


First steps towards Voice Referendum

Senator The Hon Don Farrell
Special Minister of State

Joint Minister(s)

The Hon Linda Burney MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Cabinet Secretary
Senator Patrick Dodson 
Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart

Date: Wednesday, 22 March 2023

After long negotiations, legislation has passed the Senate with bipartisan support to modernise Australia's Referendum Act and ensure that the voting process and voter experience mirrors that of a federal election, including pre-poll and postal voting.

This is an important step towards delivering the Government’s commitment to hold a referendum to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Australian Constitution.

Constitutional recognition through Voice should be an issue that is above partisan politics, and we are encouraged by a broad consensus in support of this Bill across the Parliament.

The Government’s Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022 will bring the Referendum Act, which has not been used since 1999, into line with modern electoral laws, processes, and community standards.

The Bill introduces the same financial and donation disclosure framework for referendums as is currently provided for in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, supporting transparency and accountability of referendum funding and expenditure. This includes applying the same bans on foreign donations and foreign campaigners as apply during federal elections.

Following consultations across Parliament and after considering the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' (JSCEM) advisory report, the Government also amended the Bill to:

  • Extend mobile polling to enable the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to provide an additional 7 days of voting services to voters living in remote communities and those in medical facilities and aged care; and
  • Retain the 'Yes-No' pamphlet, which will be posted to every Australian household, containing the for and against arguments authored by parliamentarians.

To boost electoral participation, the Government also recently approved changes so that Australians can now use Medicare cards and Australian citizenship certificates to enrol, update their details, and have their say.

We are committed to ensuring an inclusive, accessible, and modern referendum process for all Australians.

Passage of the Referendum Machinery Bill paves the way for the Constitutional Alteration Bill.

Constitutional recognition through Voice is about two things: recognition and consultation.

Recognition of the 65,000 years of shared history and continuous connection to this land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Consultation through Voice, because listening to communities leads to better policies and better outcomes.

The Voice Referendum will be a unifying moment for Australia – it’s about taking this country forward, for everyone.


Media Contact
(02) 6277 7420 (Farrell)
Lindy Kerin: 0429 984 223 (Burney)
Stephen Spencer: 0423 596 573 (Dreyfus)
Murray McLaughlin: 0429 153 363 (Dodson)