October 2023 | Indigenous Voice referendum fails
On 14 October, Australian voters decisively rejected a proposal (via referendum) to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution and to establish a First Nations voice in parliament. Voter turnout was at 89.95 per cent. The outcome maintains the status quo for representation of Indigenous communities and has been described by experts as a significant setback for Indigenous rights in the nation. Indigenous leaders noted that the defeat challenges ongoing reconciliation efforts, potentially leading to more confrontational discussions over Indigenous relations and issues concerning Indigenous rights. The referendum campaign encountered numerous challenges, including a lack of bipartisan support, misinformation, and a lack of detail about implementation of the Voice. In response to the defeat, Indigenous leaders called for a "week of silence" in mourning, while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese affirmed the commitment to continuing the path toward reconciliation.
August 2023 | First Australian state to outlaw Nazi salute
Following neo-Nazi protests earlier this year, Tasmania became the first Australian state to pass a law on 16 August to outlaw the display or performance of Nazi salutes and symbols. This legislation, set to take effect later this year, imposes hefty fines and up to a three-month prison term for first-time offenders. Minister of Justice Elise Archer acknowledges that such symbols and gestures "promote hate against not just Jewish people but also other minority groups." The bill includes exceptions to protect the swastika's use for religious and educational purposes unrelated to Nazi ideology. Simultaneously, Victoria, which banned the Nazi symbol last year, is progressing with a salute ban. Leading Jewish organizations have hailed Tasmania's move, hoping it encourages the federal government (currently considering a proposal to ban a few specific symbols nationwide) to follow suit.
June 2023 | National referendum for Indigenous Voice to the parliament moves ahead
On 19 June, Australia’s Senate approved legislation to hold a referendum on indigenous rights, clearing the last procedural obstacle toward a public vote that would acknowledge the indigenous population in the constitution and enhance their representation in parliament. The date for the referendum is yet to be set, however the legislation mandates that it is held no sooner than two months as well as no later than six months from 19 June . The Indigenous Voice to the Parliament, also known as the Voice, is a proposed federal advisory body that will be made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, chosen by Indigenous communities.
May 2023 | South Australia introduces harsh anti-protest bill
The South Australian government adopted a bill on 18 May increasing maximum fines from $750 to $50,000 or three months of jail time for persons obstructing the free passage of a public place. Human rights groups have criticized the hasty passage of the bill by both the lower and upper houses without public consultation, as well as raised concerns that the bill infringes on the right to peaceful protest. The law was prompted by three days of protests after climate activists took action outside an annual gathering of fossil fuel executives. Rights experts note that the legislation is part of a worrying trend wherein climate activists are increasingly becoming the target of harsh penalties over the past year.