Indigenous voice to parliament referendum date announced as 14 October

The referendum on the Indigenous voice will be held on 14 October, Anthony Albanese has confirmed, officially kickstarting a 45-day campaign at a yes rally in Adelaide.

The prime minister used an appearance alongside the South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, in the suburb of Elizabeth in Adelaide’s north to confirm Australia’s first referendum day since 1999.

“The idea for a voice came from the people and it will be decided by the people. Today I announce that referendum day will be 14 October,” Albanese told a packed theatre of yes campaign supporters, to loud applause.

“You are not being asked to vote for a political party, or for a person. You’re being asked to vote for an idea. To say yes to an idea whose time has come.”

The long-awaited confirmation of the date will kickstart an advertising blitz from both sides of the debate, as well as an escalation in community campaigning like doorknocking and phone banks.

The announcement was met with immediate support and advocacy from a wide range of social organisations including the Australian Council of Social Services, Liberals for Yes, the trade union movement and Anglicare Australia, as well as the migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES, and Indigenous children’s organisation SNAICC.

In some of his strongest and clearest advocacy for the constitutional reform, Albanese described the voice as “a committee of Indigenous Australians chosen by Indigenous Australians, giving advice to government so that we can get a better result for Indigenous Australians.” He painted the referendum as a simple and clear change that would lead to better policy results and cost savings through more efficient spending.

“There are local success stories out there. Just imagine the progress we could make with a voice connecting the regions with the nation,” Albanese said.

“Giving locals a say of course means that we save money too. Because we’ll be making sure the funding actually reaches the people on the ground.

“No more waste. Better results, where they are needed.”

Malinauskas, who has said he’s “all in” on the referendum campaign, will push strongly for a yes vote in his state, which the pro-voice campaign regards as a must-win to secure the double majority required for constitutional change. He painted the Indigenous voice as the latest stitch in a long thread of progressive reforms championed by South Australians, including the 1967 referendum and the extension of voting rights to women.

“These changes were all met at the time by opposing voices, predicting vague and terrible consequences, all of which mysteriously never materialised. In fact, the opposite is true – they made our great state even greater,” Malinauskas said.

“If our forefathers and mothers can say yes to universal franchise, if our great grandparents can say yes to waves of migration, if our grandparents can say yes in 1967, if our parents can say yes to land rights – then this generation is capable of saying yes to an advisory committee.”

Shortly after the date announcement, federal opposition leader Peter Dutton sent a fundraising email to Liberal supporters, asking for donations to help the party oppose the referendum.

“The result will be close. The yes campaign are backed by big unions and corporations. We know they will spend many millions on advertising. We need your support to push back and defeat this risky and divisive voice,” read the email, sent from the Liberal Party headquarters.

Shadow Indigenous Australians minister, and no campaign leader, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was scheduled to speak later today in Tasmania – another state seen as key to a yes victory. Shortly after the date announcement, she posted a graphic on Facebook reading: “Let’s go Australia! Vote no.”

The prime minister’s speech argued that voting no to the referendum “leads nowhere … nothing changes”. He encouraged voters to consider the referendum question, educate themselves about the proposed change, to speak to campaigners they might encounter at train stations or community events, and to discuss the campaign with friends and family.

“Our Australian story goes back 65,000 years. And what a privilege we have of sharing this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth. But our story is not finished yet,” Albanese said.

“It’s up to all of us to write the next chapter together. And we can start by writing one word – yes.”

Indigenous voice to parliament: what is it and how would it work? – video explainer

Albanese and senior members of the government will advocate strongly for the voice at key points along the referendum period, but yes campaigners like Noel Pearson, Megan Davis, Thomas Mayo, Dean Parkin and Rachel Perkins will also feature more prominently on the national stage.

The Australian Electoral Commission is urging voters to register or update their details on the electoral roll if needed, in order to be eligible to vote. Postal vote applications will become available in coming days after the date announcement, after the issuing of the referendum writs by the government; changes to the electoral roll will close seven days afterward. For more information, see the AEC website.