Thomas Mayo
Thomas Mayo speaking alongside members of the Referendum Working Group. Image by Matt Turner/AAP PHOTOS

Voice book funding claim is a work of fiction

June 26, 2023

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has funded Thomas Mayo’s The Voice to Parliament handbook.


False. Neither Mr Mayo nor his co-author Kerry O’Brien received any money from the prime minister or the federal government.

An author and union official has become the subject of misinformation after publishing a book in support of the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament.

It is being claimed that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese funded Thomas Mayo‘s The Voice to Parliament Handbook.

The claim is false. The book, which was co-authored by journalist Kerry O’Brien, has received no funding from the prime minister or the federal government.

The claim has been made in a series of posts authored by the same Facebook user in June, see here, here, here and here (archived here).

The claim has been posted on Facebook.
 The claim has been posted on Facebook. 

“…an Indigenous children (sic) book author is educating Australia funded by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, what the voice to parliament actually means and how it will work and to vote YES on this information. You got to be joking, RIGHT,” the post says.

The claim has also been made by others, for example here.

Mr Mayo is a signatory of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that called for an Indigenous voice to parliament to be enshrined in the constitution.

He was a member of the First Nations Referendum Working Group which was formed to advise the government on the timing of the referendum, the wording of the constitutional amendment and the principles of the voice among other matters.

Mr Mayo has also written several other books on the Uluru Statement and Indigenous issues and is a director of Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, the organisation running the “yes” campaign.

However, he did not receive any money from the prime minister for the handbook project.

“Neither Kerry O’Brien nor I have received any funding from Prime Minister Albanese or the federal government to produce The Voice to Parliament Handbook,” Mr Mayo said in an email to AAP FactCheck.

This was confirmed in a statement from the book’s publisher, Hardie Grant.

Journalist Kerry O'Brien
 Journalist Kerry O’Brien is a co-author of the handbook. 

“Hardie Grant paid the authors an advance on royalties to fund the work in the normal way of publishing,” the Melbourne-based company added.

“Thomas and Kerry have generously donated a portion of their royalties from The Voice to Parliament Handbook to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.”

The post also misleads about the contents of the book.

Concluding by calling it “another bombshell” and “massive deception,” the post adds: “how was the booked (sic) released as an easy follow guide for all Australians and media outlets to understand the Voice to Parliament. When the Parliament hasn’t decided what the Voice is yet?”

But the handbook does not provide detail of what the voice will be. Instead, the authors promise to answer questions about why the voice should be enshrined, how it might improve policies affecting Indigenous communities and how it could close the gap.

If the ‘yes’ vote succeeds at the referendum, the final details of the voice will only be known once parliament has put the advisory body into legislation.

AAP FactCheck has previously tackled claims relating to funding for the referendum, here and here.

The Albanese government has said that public money will not be used to fund “yes” or “no” campaigns, with groups required to do their own private fundraising.

The government will fund the official referendum pamphlet and $9.5 million has been earmarked for a civics education and awareness program.

The Verdict

The claim that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has funded The Voice to Parliament handbook is false.

Thomas Mayo and Kerry O’Brien were paid an advance by publisher Hardie Grant ahead of any royalties arising from book sales. No money came from the prime minister or the federal government.

The claim that the book provides specific details about what the voice will be is also misleading. Instead, the authors give their opinions on why the voice is important and how it might benefit Indigenous communities.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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