ALHR supports an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

May 12, 2023

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and advocacy towards a ‘yes’ vote in the Referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

ALHR acknowledges the importance of the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament and its significance, together with Treaty and Truth-Telling, in upholding human rights in Australia.

We endorse the proposed wording for the Constitution alteration to enshrine a First Nations Voice as sound, modest and consistent with progressing the implementation of international human rights law standards in Australia.

Australia stands apart from the vast majority of developed countries in its egregious failure to appropriately recognise First Nations people. As a nation, we must address our long, significant, racist and violent history of denying First Nations people institutional power, representation in decision-making and human rights protections.

ALHR expresses our profound concern at the significant and unacceptable ongoing overrepresentation of First Nations adults and children in almost every step of the criminal justice process and the care and protection system as well as grave systemic disparities across almost every important health and socio-economic marker.

ALHR knows that when First Nations people and communities receive the respect and support they deserve, they have a proud history of designing and implementing robust, holistic and culturally safe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led solutions.

The right of self-determination of peoples is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in Common Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); both of which have been ratified by Australia. Further, Australia has endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and has committed to take actions to implement it

The UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples. It is sourced from, and consistent with, the core international human rights treaties.

Articles 3 and 4 of the UNDRIP establish that Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, and in exercising that right, have the right to autonomy in matters relating to their internal and local affairs. Article 18 of the UNDRIP states that Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions. Article 19 requires States to consult with First Nations through Indigenous representative institutions before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

The UNDRIP and core international human rights treaties should guide and inspire new legislation and new mechanisms for dialogue with First Nations peoples, including dialogue about the Voice to Parliament, Treaty and Truth-Telling. These international instruments must also underpin Australia’s commitment to its Closing the Gap strategies, and to listening to and working in partnership with First Nations communities.

ALHR walks as an ally with First Nations people in our support for reforms that promote the right of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia to be consulted and heard in relation to legislation, regulations, policies and administrative decisions that affect them.

ALHR acknowledges that there are a wide range of views about the proposal for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament. We call on all Australians to engage in this historic conversation respectfully and to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with human rights principles and a commitment to the inherent equal dignity of all people.


Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of the lands, rivers and seas on which we work, live and travel across Australia as the first people of this country. We recognise that the land belonging to these peoples was never ceded, given up, bought, or sold. We pay our deep respect to Elders past and present and express our strong support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and Voice, Treaty and Truth-Telling. ALHR calls on all levels of government across Australia to comprehensively adopt the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) in order to protect the human rights of all First Nations Peoples.