Did the outcome of the referendum derail support for vulnerable Aussies?

Posted 1 month ago by David McManus
What was the cost of the ‘Voice’ to Parliament referendum on October 14, 2023? [Source: Sangiao Photography via Shutterstock]
What was the cost of the ‘Voice’ to Parliament referendum on October 14, 2023? [Source: Sangiao Photography via Shutterstock]

What were your thoughts about the outcome of the referendum? Do you believe the funds were misused?

Key points:

  • The Australian Electoral Commission calculated that the referendum likely cost $450 million dollars, with the Federal Government allocating $364.6 million to deliver the referendum in the ‘23 – ‘24 Budget
  • Voters defeated the proposal to alter Australia’s Constitution and establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament
  • First Nations people were 1.5 times as likely to be living with disability as non-Indigenous Australians and 2.5 times as likely to be living with severe or profound disability


On October 14, 2023, a referendum was held in Australia to decide whether to alter the Constitution to grant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a ‘Voice’ to Parliament that would provide recommendations on future policy.

The majority of Australian voters were against the proposed amendment, with a 60 – 40 margin siding with the ‘No’ vote.

The Australian Electoral Commission estimated that the referendum would cost around $450 million, with the Federal Government providing approximately $364 million, as per the latest Budget.

The referendum’s ‘Yes’ voters, who were in the minority, had hoped to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution and provide support for additional policy amendments and proposals.

However, some have addressed the cost of the Voice vote, which is the 45th referendum in Australian history since Federation in 1901, with Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe claiming that the decision was a ‘waste of money’ and a ‘bad idea.


The Budget 2023 – 2024, which allocated $364.6 million to delivering the Voice referendum:

  • Sought to save $73.4 billion dollars over the next decade through overhauling the NDIS
  • Increased cigarette taxes by $3.3 billion — impacting those with mental illness, due to the disproportionate rates of smokers who are neurodivergent and unemployed
    • People who experience psychosis have an increased likelihood of smoking by 60 to 70 percent, in contrast to the general population
  • Garnered concern from advocates due to the perceived inadequacy of increases to Commonwealth rent assistance, Disability Support Pensions and JobSeeker


The Disability Support Pension is the primary income support payment for people aged 16 and over with disability who have a reduced capacity to work because of their impairment. In December of 2022, 58,500 First Nations people were receiving DSP, accounting for 7.6 percent of total recipients

In contrast, only $68.3 million had been allocated to better drug and alcohol prevention and treatment, which is the second leading contributor to — both fatal and non-fatal — disease in First Nations communities.

For Indigenous males aged 25 – 44 years, alcohol use disorders were the leading contributor to total burden, followed by suicide, self-harm and anxiety disorders.

Prior to the outcome of the national referendum, peak advocacy body First Peoples Disability Network had published an open letter online, calling for Australians to vote in favour of the Constitutional amendment:

We are your neighbours, friends, family and colleagues. We represent more than 20 percent of the population and together as a disability community, we unite in support of a First Nations Voice to Parliament. We believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples know their communities best and can guide the answers that will enable us to celebrate and assure the continuation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture long into the future.

For too long, our systems and policies have been designed and built by Governments that do not and cannot in their current form, understand the genuine solutions needed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Results from a hearing test had previously revealed that, at the time of testing in 2018 – ‘19, more than four in 10 — or 43 percent of — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, seven years or older, had hearing loss in one or both ears.

Rebecca Adam, Expression Australia’s chief executive officer, had previously called on the Federal Government to support a communication blitz for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community about the Voice referendum.

The CEO expressed that more could have been done to inform the First Nations community about the referendum through accessible outreach.


Do you agree or disagree with the outcome of the referendum or the referendum itself? Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts!