More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Eligible Cook Islanders invited to vote in Aussie referendum to recognise First Peoples of Australia

Tuesday 10 October 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Australia, Economy, National, Regional


Eligible Cook Islanders invited  to vote in Aussie referendum  to recognise  First Peoples of Australia

Cook Islanders holding Australian passport are being called on to vote today in a controversial referendum which seeks to recognise the First Peoples of Australia.

In person voting for Australians, who are living in or visiting the Cook Islands and enrolled to vote in the 2023 referendum, will be held today between 10am and 2pm at the Returned Services Association across the road from Rarotonga International Airport.

No appointment is required, and those who think they may be eligible to vote can check their current electoral enrolment on the Australian Electoral Commission website.   

On Saturday, Australians will have their say as to whether to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Voters have been asked to vote yes or no on a single question. The question on the ballot paper will be: “A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

Cook Islands News contacted Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Phoebe Smith for comment.

For one Cook Islands Aussie, the debate has shown how much “hatred and vitriol there is towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”.

Jacki Brown, now Rarotonga based, spent many years living and working in Australia.

This proposed Voice will be a body that may make representations to the Commonwealth Parliament on matters relating to and on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“This proposed change has been a long time in the making,” Brown said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been demanding civil and land rights for over 200 years.

“The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was set up in 1972 under a beach umbrella in the grounds opposite Parliament House in Canberra. It still exists and is the longest running protest in the world.”

Brown said the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a single page document and confirms Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes as first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and adjacent islands, and governing under their own laws and customs for over 60 millennia.

“It defines sovereignty as a spiritual notion of the ancestral ties between the land and its first peoples, and states that it was never ceded.

“The statement references the history of inequality with the highest incarceration rates in the world, deaths in custody and removal of children from their families: the stolen generation that continues to this day.”

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese promised as part of his election campaign in 2022 to propose a change in the Constitution for a Voice to Parliament.

Brown said there is an example of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in Scandinavia with the 50,000 Sámi people in Norway who have had a representative body for 34 years.

“It is a bit different to Australia’s proposal as the 39 representatives are elected every four years. The common principle is indigenous representation on matters that relate to them.”

Brown said Australia has had 44 referendums, and only eight carried, because a double majority must be achieved nationwide as well as separate majorities in a majority of states.

The last referendum in 1999 on becoming a republic failed to achieve a majority.

Brown said 1967 was the last successful referendum with three questions asked.

“Firstly, about increasing the numbers of members of Parliament and two questions regarding Indigenous Australians: to give Federal government power to make special laws for Indigenous Australians in states and lastly whether they should be included in the official population counts (census) for constitutional purposes. The term Aboriginal race was used in the questions for the first time.

“In order for the 2023 referendum to succeed, there needs to be bipartisan support from the major parties. The opposition LNP - Liberal and National parties are firmly in the No camp on the grounds that a Voice will be divisive. The Blak Sovereign Movement are No voters as their starting point is sovereignty never ceded and treaty.”