Recognition referendum promised within three years

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt at the National Press Club yesterday (ABC News/screenshot)

A proposal to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution will be put to a referendum within three years, the Government has promised. Source: ABC News.

In a National Press Club address yesterday, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt pledged to "bring forward a consensus option" during the current term of Parliament.

He said "the Morrison Government is committed" to Indigenous constitutional change.

Hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people met at Uluru in 2017 and demanded an Indigenous advisory body be added to the nation's founding document.

The Turnbull government rejected that proposal, saying it would "inevitably become seen as a third chamber of parliament".

But Scott Morrison appears open to the idea, with the Prime Minister last week agreeing to work with Labor on the issue.

Mr Wyatt said the government would design the model with First Australians, allocating more than $7 million to the process.

"The successful 1967 [Indigenous] referendum was the result of tireless advocacy and an extraordinary nationwide momentum for change," Mr Wyatt said.

"If we want to see that kind of national consensus again, we need to be thorough and take the time to get it right."

The Uluru Statement endorsed a referendum to establish a permanent Indigenous body to advise parliament.

Mr Wyatt said he would seek to reframe that key demand of the 2017 convention as "not a singular voice".

"It is a cry to all tiers of government to stop and listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians," he said.

Mr Wyatt pledged to work with his Opposition counterpart Linda Burney, describing her as "integral" to the engagement process.

One option likely to be considered would see the national "voice" established in the constitution but with some details and features enacted through parliament.

"It's an advisory entity … and it will be legislated by the parliament and its advice won't be [open to challenge in court]," Labor senator Pat Dodson said.

"So it’s a fairly inept instrument in some ways."

But he said "it's unfair to First Nations peoples to keep procrastinating about the hard issues".


Indigenous constitutional recognition to be put to referendum in next three years, Minister promises (ABC News)


Ken Wyatt vows to ‘find common ground’ for referendum on indigenous voice (The Australian)

Indigenous referendum won't be held if it looks like failing, Ken Wyatt says (The Guardian)

Walk with me, Australia: Ken Wyatt's historic pledge for Indigenous recognition (Sydney Morning Herald)

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