Albanese lays constitutional path to Voice

Historic steps toward constitutional recognition and an Indigenous Voice to parliament will be taken at the Garma Festival, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recommending changes ahead of a referendum on the issue.

The prime minister will tell Indigenous leaders, campaigners and advocates gathered at northeast Arnhem land on Saturday what they have been waiting to hear – the nation is ready for reform.

Mr Albanese will recommend the addition of three sentences to the constitution to establish the voice, as a starting point for discussion.


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“This may not be the final form of words, but I think it’s how we can get to a final form of words,” he will say.

The question put to Australians in a referendum could be as simple as: Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?

“A straightforward proposition,” Mr Albanese will say.

“A simple principle.

A question from the heart.”

The prime minister will repeat calls for bipartisan support and urged Australians to engage on the issue.

“Enshrining a Voice will be a national achievement. It will be above politics.”

Wiradjuri man Geoff Scott said the opportunity for a voice had arrived and if missed it may not return for another generation.

“It has been something that’s been developing over 30 years and the time is right now for change,” Mr Scott told AAP at the festival on Friday.

“We are on the verge of something very monumental, and spectacular.”

Mr Scott said a Voice to parliament would help Indigenous people focus on closing the gap, and every Australian should want that.

“We do not want to lose another generation. That is what the Voice is about,” he said.

He acknowledged the federal government still had a lot of work to do before a referendum could happen.

If the referendum goes ahead it would be the first in more than 20 years. Only eight out of 44 Australian referendums have succeeded since 1901.

Mr Albanese will acknowledge the risk of failure of the referendum amid concerns opponents of Indigenous recognition were deliberately creating confusion among the public.

“A referendum is a high hurdle to clear, you know that and so do we,” he will tell those gathered.

“We recognise the risks of failure but we choose not to dwell on them – because we see this referendum as a magnificent opportunity for Australia.”

At moving ceremony at the festival on Friday, Mr Albanese said Australians should “cherish” and celebrate its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

“We should recognise it in our national birth certificate, the Constitution of Australia,” he said to cheers and applause from the crowd of about 600 people.

“My government will be taking up your generous offer of the Uluru Statement to walk with First Nations people towards reconciliation, to take that journey.

“To accept the generous and gracious offer, which is beyond what could have been reasonably expected given the history of this great island continent since 1788.”

© AAP 2022