ANU Study Unveils Strong Voter Support for First Nations' Voice


   A recent study has brought to light a striking consensus among voters, with almost nine out of 10 expressing the belief that First Nations Australians should have a say in decisions that affect them. This revelation raises significant questions about the failure of the Voice to Parliament initiative.

Despite more than 60 percent of voters, approximately 9.42 million individuals, casting a "No" vote in the October 14 referendum, the new study from the Australian National University indicates that 87 percent of respondents agreed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should indeed have a voice on matters impacting them.

Interestingly, this sentiment was shared not only by almost all those who voted "Yes" in the recent referendum but also by three-quarters of those who voted "No." The study's findings underscore a widespread acknowledgment of the importance of First Nations Australians having a meaningful role in decisions that shape their lives.

Study co-author Nicholas Biddle has indicated that the study's findings imply Australians expressed more concern about the proposed model rather than the actual content of the referendum question.

"This raises serious questions about why the proposed referendum failed and saw more than 60 per cent of voters, and all states and territories, except the ACT, categorically reject it," noted Professor Biddle.

“Our findings suggest it is not so much the premise of recognition but the model that was being presented to voters at the referendum, among other key factors.

“But our job is to make sure that we implement the things that were promised in the last election … what’s most crucial, in my view, is to make sure we come up with a considered way forward, not a grab bag.”

The university has been actively monitoring the opinions of 4200 voters since January and is set to unveil the post-vote snapshot on Tuesday, contributing to a better understanding of the nuanced perspectives shaping public opinion.

Professor Biddle emphasized, "Our findings show that there is widespread support for a broad definition of constitutional recognition."

 According to the study, 61.7 percent of Australians indicated that they would definitely or probably vote yes in a recognition referendum, a figure nearly five times higher than the 12.5 percent who expressed a probable or definite no.

The study's release coincided with statements from Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney, who mentioned an ongoing discussion about moving towards local and regional voices in the aftermath of the referendum's defeat. 

Minister Burney, ahead of a Closing the Gap meeting, highlighted that the government is actively exploring alternative framework options for consulting with Indigenous communities.

"There are structures across Australia, and they have to be self-determined; it’s not up to the government to say ‘this is the way you do things’," she asserted, reflecting the government's commitment to respecting Indigenous autonomy in shaping future initiatives.

The ANU study also revealed that 9.4 percent of Australians believe the government should enhance reconciliation. Additionally, eight out of 10 voters agreed that Australia should "undertake formal truth-telling processes to acknowledge the reality of Australia’s shared history."

Ms Burney on Friday said the government was looking closely at truth-telling – the third request of the Uluru Statement from the Heart where the Voice to Parliament came from.

"What I’m hearing moving around the country is ‘what does it mean for the rest of the Uluru statement?’" Ms. Burney stated.

"In particular, I’m hearing the importance of truth-telling. I am not saying I’ve got a model in my mind, but I am saying that what I’m hearing very clearly from Aboriginal communities is the importance of truth" Ms. Burney emphasized." 

This underscores a growing recognition of the significance of truth-telling in acknowledging and reconciling Australia's shared history.