Melbourne (Australia), 13/10/2023.- Signs are seen outside the voting centre at Ivanhoe Primary School in Melbourne, Australia, 14 October 2023. EFE/EPA/CON CHRONIS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Australia holds constitutional referendum on recognition of First Nations

Sydney, Australia, Oct 14 (EFE).- Australia is holding a referendum on Saturday to decide whether to amend the 1901 Constitution to create an advisory body to give a voice to indigenous people before Parliament and the Executive on matters that concern these peoples.

Voting began at 8:00 am local time in the three Australian time zones with uncertainty, since the polls until Friday gave the victory to the no vote.

The polls will close at 6:00 pm local time, when the consultation results are expected to be known.

About 17.7 million Australians are registered on the electoral rolls to vote in more than 7,000 polling stations across the country, to decide whether to give more representation to indigenous people, who comprise 3.8 percent of the country’s more than 26 million people.

The question they will have to answer in the referendum is: “A proposed law to alter the Constitution to recognize First Nations by establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve of this amendment?” by marking the option of “yes” or “no.”

Through this initiative, the Government proposes to create a body composed of members elected by the Indigenous communities, called La Voz, to provide independent advice to the Executive and Parliament on matters related to native peoples and thus give them more significant participation in decision making.

The proposal seeks to include a new three-point chapter in the Constitution, which dates back to 1901, under the title Reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Aborigines are the most widespread indigenous people in Australia, while Torres Strait Islanders are of Melanesian culture and come from islands northeast of the country.

Under Australia’s referendum mechanisms, for the constitutional amendment to succeed, it must win a majority of all votes cast in the nation and four of Australia’s six states.

According to a consulting firm JWS Research survey published Friday by the Australian Financial Review newspaper, the no vote would prevail today with 57% of the votes.

The yes vote would only accumulate 43% of the support. It would only have a majority in the region of Victoria.

The no vote is a historical trend in the 45 referendums that Australia has held, of which only eight have been successful, including the 1967 referendum in which 91% of Australians supported the proposal to legislate for the inclusion of indigenous people in the population census.

Australians registered on the electoral rolls are obliged to vote or face a fine of 20 Australian dollars (12.9 US dollars or 12.2 euros), and voting will be staggered due to three time zones in the oceanic country.

Aborigines have been victims of constant mistreatment since colonization, in addition to being dispossessed of their lands and systematically discriminated against by institutions, organizations, and society in general. EFE


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