In a statement to all staff and students, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt has announced the ANU Council’s formal position to support enshrining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in the Constitution. This means the Council supports a yes vote in the upcoming referendum on a Voice to Parliament, set to take place between October and December this year.

The statement from the Council also acknowledged “differing views exist within the University community and that the University is a place where respectful informed debate and freedom of expression are actively encouraged.” The statement emphasises “respectful engagement” from an “informed position.”

The ANU’s First Nations Portfolio has produced a document entitled Responding to common concerns about an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, addressing concerns including why a voice may be needed, and whether a voice may give special rights to First Nations people. The document takes a broadly academic approach to responding to these questions, detailing statistics about representation of First Nations people in Parliament and Constitutional details surrounding the establishing of the Voice.

The First Nations Portfolio is a branch of the University’s executive which is tasked with “ensur[ing] the ANU is a world leader in teaching and research on First Nations issues.” The ANU does not describe it as a group responsible for equity for First Nations people within the University. Instead, the University proposes that “Indigenous equity and engagement is not the preserve of any one unit in the ANU, but should be ‘normal business’ throughout the University.”

The University’s statement concludes with a discussion of the potential harm caused by relying on Indigenous staff and students to educate non-Indigenous people on the Voice, stating “Please also bear in mind this might be a difficult time for Indigenous staff and students and I urge non-Indigenous people not to lean on our Indigenous staff and students for information and support when there are other sources to help you inform yourself.”

Woroni understands that the University spoke to several First Nations students, with a variety of perspectives, in arriving at this decision.

The University’s move has not been in isolation; with other universities such as UNSW recently releasing similar statements supporting the Voice to Parliament. Woroni will continue to report on the University’s actions surrounding the Voice leading up to the referendum.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.