|23 June 2023
|All Victorian public sector employees
|Integrity and Oversight branch
Victorian Public Sector Commission
Later in 2023, Australians will be asked in a referendum whether they approve a change to the Australian Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by enshrining a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
The Victorian Government is a signatory to a National Cabinet Statement of Intent and has agreed under this to ‘support a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament’ and to support the Commonwealth Government in ‘ensuring Australians are afforded a free and fair referendum process’.
For many people, the referendum is a sensitive topic with deep personal meaning. All Victorians, including those engaged in public sector roles, may wish to inform themselves about the subject matter of this referendum, so that they can form a view and if eligible, vote, in the referendum.
In doing this, Victorian public sector employees have the freedom to participate in the referendum process in their private capacity, including engaging in public discussion. At the same time all public sector employees need to also continue to comply with the seven public sector values in the Public Administration Act 2004 (PAA), and their obligations in the relevant Codes of Conduct. This includes remaining apolitical, avoiding conflicts of interest, avoiding damage to the public’s trust in how they do their job, and promoting an environment that encourages respect.
This means that while public sector employees may have personal views on the referendum, in expressing these views publicly they still need to comply with their public sector obligations either in or outside the workplace.
Above all, public sector employees should demonstrate the public sector value of respect. This means that racism or any form of discrimination is not permitted under the relevant Codes of Conduct and will not be tolerated.
It is therefore critical that public sector employees and employers maintain a respectful and considerate approach towards their colleagues, other public sector employees, and members of the Victorian community during what may be an emotional and challenging period for some. Particular care must be taken by employers to provide a safe working environment for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees, including setting expectations of behaviour for both managers and staff and providing additional support as appropriate.
In the lead up to the referendum, some employees in the Victorian public sector may be asked to undertake work which supports the Victorian Government’s alignment with the National Cabinet Statement of Intent. The government of the day can lawfully ask public sector employees (other than employees in special bodies) to do this as these employees must implement the policies and programs of the elected government.
If you have any questions about this guidance or require further advice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org