Survey results show Australians want to be a part of a historic step forward

26 May 2021

CQUniversity law lecturer Dr Jacob Deem is highlighting the results of the recent Constitutional Values survey to call for a First Nations voice to parliament' as part of National Reconciliation Week.

The results from the recent study conducted by CQUniversity Australia and Griffith University have shown clear public support among Australians for the constitutional enshrinement of a First Nations Voice.

The Australian Constitutional Values Survey 2021 measured public attitudes towards establishing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Lead researcher Dr Jacob Deem from CQUniversity said the survey results indicated substantial support for a First Nations Voice to Parliament: 62 per cent of respondents were in favour of some form of First Nations Voice' and only one in eight respondents (12.4 per cent) were against the idea.

There was also a clear preference for enshrining the Voice in the Constitution' rather than a simply legislated model.

"More than 50 per cent of respondents were expressly in favour of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament" (as opposed to 26 per cent in favour of a legislated Voice).

Asked to explain why they were in favour of or against the Voice' most respondents engaged with the issue on moral and emotive grounds.

"Some respondents viewed the Voice as being an important mechanism for giving First Nations peoples a say or for listening to their perspectives' while others viewed a constitutional Voice as a way of recognising the special status of First Nations peoples as the traditional owners of the land."

Dr Deem said that low support for a Voice that was simply legislated' without providing Constitutional recognition' showed that Australians want to be included in establishing the Voice.

"A majority of Australians view the Voice as the right course of action' and they want to be a part of that step in Australian history. Compared to constitutional reform' a purely legislative Voice would deny Australians a significant chance to participate in the change'"

said Dr Deem.

"The Constitution is Australia's foundational legal document and including a First Nations Voice in the Constitution as opposed to just a legislative change would have three main benefits.

"Firstly' the change would show that Australians view and respect First Nations peoples as the traditional owners of our nation' signalling that the Voice is an important institution in society' like parliament or the courts.

"Secondly' it would provide certainty – the Constitution can only be changed by direct vote from the Australian public' whereas normal legislation can be changed at any time by Parliament. And finally' because the Australian public would have to vote on a constitutional Voice' it would give the Voice popular legitimacy and provide a valuable opportunity for all Australians to take a practical step forwards on the journey of reconciliation".

Dr Deem added that The Uluru Statement is expressed as an invitation to walk with First Nations peoples on a journey towards recognition' which includes the constitutional enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament as a crucial step.

"The results of the Australian Constitutional Values Survey 2021 demonstrate that many Australians have taken up this invitation' supporting a constitutionally enshrined Voice."

The Australian Constitutional Values Survey 2021 surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1511 Australian respondents aged 18-65 plus between 9-18 February 2021.

The Australian Constitutional Values Survey (ACVS) was first created by Professor A J Brown (Griffith University) in 2008. The survey has been conducted at regular intervals since' with Dr Deem taking over as project lead for the latest survey.

The survey measures attitudes towards key features of government (e.g.' trust in government' or whether Federal and State governments are working effectively) as well as important topics in Australian politics such as the constitutional recognition of First Nations peoples.

You can read more about the latest survey finding in this article in The Conversation.