Responding to racism during the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum

This advice has been created to support all staff, including school leaders and Anti-Racism Contact Officers (ARCOs), in supporting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students and staff who experience racism linked to the referendum on the Voice.

Later this year, the Australian Government will hold a referendum about making a change to the Australian Constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

The Voice referendum has opened up debate in Australia and this debate, as well as broader discussions about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, may be occurring within our school communities and work environments. The debate is also leading to an increased cultural load for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, who are often expected to respond to questions around the Voice referendum within both personal and professional settings. Many people may prefer to keep their views private, so should not be put in a position where they are forced to share their perspectives.

While it is important to recognise the diversity of opinions on the proposed Voice to Parliament that exists within all communities, the respectful expression of these opinions is essential to ensure Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, staff and community members feel safe and supported while at school or at work.

Eliminating racism and ensuring cultural safety for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are key department priorities. Racist behaviour and the expression of racism in any form are not tolerated in NSW public education.

Support for students and community experiencing racism

Any student, parent, carer or community member who has experienced racism at school or in other work areas may make a report of racism.

All reports of racism must be taken seriously, and the issue and resolution should be recorded.

Reports of racism in schools can be made to any member of staff and are best supported by the Anti-Racism Contact Officer (ARCO) who is trained in supporting the processes to address racism in schools. Reports may be made verbally or put in writing. The ARCO can support the person making the report to put it in writing if necessary.

Students can also call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

Support for staff experiencing racism

Reports of racism may be made verbally or in writing to any workplace manager.

Staff who need support are encouraged to talk to someone who makes them feel safe such as a colleague, friend, or family member. The Anti-Racism Contact Officer (ARCO) in schools can also provide support to school staff experiencing racism.

Alternatively, staff may access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by calling 1800 060 650.

Staff can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 13 YARN, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific national crisis line: 13 92 76.

Anti-Discrimination NSW has launched a new resource, 6 ways to look after yourself and mob during The Voice referendum debate. This pocket-sized guide contains information about Anti-Discrimination NSW services and mental health tips.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has produced a support document on minimising harm during conversations about the referendum.

Voice to Parliament – Advice for teachers

Voice to Parliament – advice for teachers is a resource created to support and guide teachers planning to use the referendum as an example in the classroom setting. This historical referendum is an event that teachers may consider an engaging example to discuss in relation to several syllabuses in the K-12 curriculum. This should be done with care and consideration in line with the department’s Controversial Issues in Schools policy and procedures.

Contact us

If you have any questions or would like more information, please email


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