Bank Australia supports Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition (AICR), a non-partisan organisation that led the Yes campaign. The donation to AICR came from the bank’s impact fund, where up to 4% of the bank’s after-tax profits are committed each year to support programmes and projects creating meaningful impact for people and the planet.
In October 2023 Australians voted in a referendum about whether to change the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia, by establishing a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. This was the first Australian referendum of the 21st century.
The idea for a Voice to Parliament was developed over decades and agreed on in 2017 by more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, who together wrote the Uluru Statement from the Heart. As a proud supporter of the Uluru Statement since 2019, Bank Australia took an active role supporting and contributing to the Yes campaign ahead of the referendum.
Standing with First Nations people in support of the Voice
In consultation with customers, the bank’s Board of Directors, partners and employees, Bank Australia decided to support Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition (AICR), a non-partisan organisation that led the Yes campaign. The donation to AICR came from the bank’s impact fund, where up to 4% of the bank’s after tax profits are committed each year to support programmes and projects creating meaningful impact for people and the planet.
As a values-based bank, Bank Australia regularly surveys customers about the issues they care about, and First Nations reconciliation is consistently a top priority. The most recent survey from February 2023 showed 80% of customers supported Bank Australia advocating for a Yes vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum.
In addition to donating to AICR, Bank Australia provided employees and customers with resources and opportunities to learn about the Uluru Statement and its pillars of Voice, Treaty and Truth. The bank also leaned into its business networks to advocate for and share knowledge about the Voice to Parliament, and employees had the opportunity to volunteer in support of the campaign through phone banking and handing out flyers at train stations.
“I was nervous before my first call, but once we got started, it was really doable. I had a long conversation with an undecided voter and that made the evening feel really worthwhile,” said Jane from our Impact Management team, who volunteered in phone banking.
Not the referendum outcome we hoped for
We were disappointed with the outcome of the Voice to Parliament referendum, which saw 60.1% of Australians vote no. Referenda are historically difficult to pass, with only 8 of 44 succeeding since Australia’s federation in 1901. Nonetheless, we had hoped this referendum would achieve a majority ‘yes’ vote and signal an important step forward in Australia’s journey towards First Nations reconciliation.
In the lead up to the referendum made people in Australia came together in a strong show of support for First Nations reconciliation, including community groups, Indigenous businesses, industry groups, philanthropic organisations, faith groups and over 50,000 volunteers. This support demonstrates a strong commitment to advancing First Nations reconciliation.
Bank Australia’s Managing Director, Damien Walsh, said the bank will continue working to support First Nations justice and self-determination:
“While the referendum result was disappointing, the allyship that the Voice movement has built has been incredible to see, and shows that there is a huge number of people who want to see change.”
You can read more about how Bank Australia is taking action on issues that matter to their customers on the Bank Australia website.