'Closing the gap' with the Voice referendum: What is it and what does it mean?

There's just over a week left until Aussies head to the polls to vote in the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament

According to the most recent poll, support for the Voice referendum has ticked up for the first time in months but Yes still lags No voters.

A large aspect of the Yes campaign's argument is that the Indigenous Voice to Parliament will help 'close the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

But what does that actually mean, and what does 'the gap' even refer to?

Watch: Tony Armstrong on racism in Australia. Post continues below.

Video via The Project.

What does 'closing the gap' mean?

Close the Gap is a bipartisan government campaign that started in 2008 to improve the health, wellbeing and socioeconomic status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The targets address the Indigenous disadvantage seen in employment, life expectancy, child mortality, and more. The aims were designed to 'close the gap' within a generation, by 2030.

In total, there are 19 targets established.


15 years on, only four out of the 19 targets are on track. 

There remains a suicide rate that is still twice as high, an eight-year life expectancy gap, and the fact that a young Indigenous male is more likely to go to jail than university.

The Voice aims to help better address the issue.

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Mamamia: "We know that at the moment, decisions have been made from Canberra for Indigenous Australians, often with the best of intentions, but what this is about is doing things with Indigenous Australians so as to get better outcomes.

"We need to do better. Programs that work - because they have that sense of agency and belonging. That's what the Voice will enable to happen. To replicate the systems that are working and to get better results."

Indigenous elder Aunty Munya Andrews agrees, telling us: "For me, the Voice is a start and I'm very supportive. The gap is not closing. This is a proposal to try another way to close the gap. So for me, it is important to at least try and give it a shot. Otherwise we can go back to the drawing board. But this is a positive step forward, and one that would be enshrined in the constitution. It's a step in the right direction."

An Indigenous person shares their perspective.

Briggs is an actor, rapper and activist as well as a proud Yorta Yorta man who's been a driving force for the Yes campaign. Speaking with Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, Briggs reflects on how the Voice could positively impact the lives of Indigenous people right now, and for generations to come.


"The gap is the disparity between Indigenous Australians, Blackfellas, and the rest of the country. We're behind the eight ball in the health system, homelessness is a big issue. All these things that affect us exponentially are disproportion to the population," he explains. 

Briggs does note that the Voice "isn't a magic wand" that will fix everything in a day or two. But it's a major step forward. Plus, 80 per cent of First Nations Australians want the Voice to happen. This has been fact-checked


Briggs also sees a strong correlation between the No campaign tactics today for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, versus other No campaigns from previous referendums in Australian history.

Take for example the decision on whether to give Australian women the right to vote.

The No campaign at the time claimed that 90 per cent of women didn't want this right, and that it would divide the country, rather than unite us. The same is being said about Indigenous Australians and race divisions in 2023. 

Out of the 44 referendums that have taken place throughout Australian history, only eight have been successful. One of those successful referendums was in 1967, when the country voted on whether to change the constitution in relation to First Nations people being counted as part of the Australian population. 

"A No result would be extremely detrimental. One of the messages I'm trying to say is you're not saying no to the government, which a lot of people get a kick out of. [Instead] you're saying no to Blackfellas," says Briggs.

Listen to The Quicky on this subject. Post continues after audio.


"We already live in no - no is now. We can see no right now, and it's not working. No does not work. We're in it. They say this referendum will divide the country - how could it possibly divide the country even further than what it's already divided?"

The main takeaway - a no vote, from Briggs' perspective, is not unifying at all. As for the principal of this referendum - Briggs says it's about "valuing Blackfellas".

"No just reinforces racism in this country. If a no prevails, it won't be the progressive nos that are cheering the loudest. We know who is going to be cheering. If we go back to the polls, 80 per cent of Blackfella want it [the Voice]. That's a pretty good majority," he tells Mamamia

"Yes says that we want to work towards a more unified country and more unified society, and better outcomes not just for Blackfellas but for everybody. Everyone benefits when the collective is winning. This isn't about us and them, and Black and white. This is about what we want to present to the world about our nation. Don't get caught up in drama and conspiracies. If someone says it will cause division, ask them how and why. Make them answer to their claims."

For more information on the Voice, you can visit Mamamia's content hub here.

Feature Image: Getty.