QUT Takes Stance on the Voice to Parliament, Joining Universities Across Australia

On Tuesday 2 May 2023, QUT followed universities across Australia in announcing its support of the proposed Voice to Parliament and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. 

“We pledge our support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and its call to enshrine an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice in the Constitution to give effect to that recognition.” 

“We are convinced that this Voice will give Indigenous Australians the opportunity to participate in matters that affect them by informing and advising on decisions that impact their lives,” reads the statement from Chancellor Ann Sherry AO and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil AO. 

This statement reflects an endorsement of a ‘Yes’ position in the referendum taken by QUT Council and the university’s Executive Leadership Team. 

The referendum will ask Australians to vote on whether the Constitution should be altered to “recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice”. The referendum is set to take place sometime between September and December this year

The proposed alterations to the Constitution have been the subject of extensive political debate and commentary over the last year, with opinions of First Nations MPs divided on whether a Voice should be established. 

Reconciliation Australia’s research shows there is broad support across the Australian public, and amongst Indigenous Australians, for a constitutionally protected national representative body for Indigenous Australians.  

QUT joins a chorus of universities who have taken public ‘Yes’ positions on the referendum, including the University of Melbourne, the University of Wollongong, the Australian National University, Deakin University, Monash University, and UNSW Sydney.   

Glass understands while the University of Queensland has affirmed its support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the University has not taken a public ‘Yes’ position for the referendum at this stage. UQ has instead noted that “crucial details” of the statement, such as the Voice, are subject to “continuing consultation”. 

In March, Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson spoke in the Senate against the wave of universities taking positions on the Voice, which she said “…could potentially undermine academic freedom.” 

“It’s absolutely fundamental that academic freedom is preserved at all costs. It protects the rights of academics to engage in free, robust speech.” 

In their statement, QUT acknowledged that not every individual in the QUT community would agree with the University’s institutional position on the Voice, and stated the University’s commitment “…to the protection of academic freedom and freedom of expression as central values of an open, modern, curiosity-driven, evidence-based educational and research institution.” 

The QUT Student Guild has not yet announced its position on the Voice, with newly elected President Aamna Asif telling Glass she expects this will be discussed and decided at this month’s Council meeting. Asif encourages students to attend the meeting and speak on the matter if they wish. All QUT students can attend Guild Council meetings, with details posted on the Guild Noticeboard

UPDATE: At the May Guild Student Representative Council meeting on 24th May 2023, student representatives voted to endorse the Voice to Parliament. The motion was made by President Aamna Asif and seconded by Treasurer Usama Shafiq.

“I believe that it’s time that we recognise the valued perspectives of our First Nations people by providing them a Voice in Parliament and decision-making processes. I think that the government will finally take a significant step towards reconciliation, honouring their rightful place and shaping our future.  

“I think that for far too long, [Indigenous] Australians have faced systematic inequalities and marginalisation, and by providing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, we finally – it’s not even about special treatment, it’s nothing to do with that – we finally ensure that they are included in changes, that things are being collaborated on and consulted on and that all policies and discussions are being consented on. 

“I believe that establishing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is not just about justice, it’s about healing wounds and building a more inclusive and prosperous future. So I think it’s time that we embrace this opportunity to empower Indigenous Australians and create a nation where everyone’s voice truly matters.” 

Isabella Foley (Environment Officer, SAlt) also spoke for the motion: 

“I think that people should stridently come out and oppose the “No” campaign that’s going on in Australian society right now, headed by people like Peter Dutton, Jacinta Price. I think the “No” campaign holds some of the most disgusting views I’ve ever heard about Aboriginal people and their oppression in modern-day times. I think that it’s important to give critical support of the Voice to Parliament. I say critical because I think we actually need to continue fighting for Aboriginal rights outside of the Voice…It’s just as important that people come to Invasion Day every year, which sections of the Labor party called tokenistic previously, which is very shameful….But I think we should totally give support to endorsing this.” 

Declan Kerr (Science Councillor, SAlt), also spoke for the motion, noting the “racism” of the “No” campaign. The vote to endorse the Voice to Parliament was unanimous and no SRC member spoke against the motion. 

The Guild’s First Nations Officer position is currently vacant, and interested students can find information about the position here. 

Ciaran Greig
Ciaran Greig

Ciaran (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and an editor at Glass Magazine. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing)/Bachelor of Laws.

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