Who is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander for the purposes of the Voice? If it is a person with less than 50% First Nation heritage, at what point do they stop being considered as a First Nation person, or will any % give them Voice rights?
Thanks for the question!
Members of the Voice would be Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, according to the standard “three part test”. This has been the adopted definition of Aboriginality since the 1980s. An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person
- of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent
- who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- and is accepted as such by the community in which he [or she] lives.
Throughout Australia’s colonial history, governments have made deliberate efforts to whiten the skin of Aboriginal people and disconnect them from language, family and culture.
Between 1910-1970, many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 3 Indigenous children were taken from their families, affecting most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. This all took place under past Australian Government policies.
Children were forced to assimilate into non-Indigenous society and culture. They were refused access to their family and were stopped from speaking their native language and using their birth name. The government didn’t keep records of birth dates or place of birth of many of the children. This made it extremely difficult for them to reconnect with their biological families when they were older. In many cases children were removed and housed far away from where they were stolen.
Throughout much of Australia's history, it has been official Government policy to whiten the skin of Aboriginal people, to separate them from family and community, and prevent them from practicing traditional culture or speaking their languages.
For this reason, Aboriginal definitions of Aboriginal identity differ significantly from, for example, ideas of race in the United States. You can read more about this 3 part test at the Australian Law Reform Commission website.