Education on Indigenous voice 'critical'

·2-min read

Australians must be given details on an Indigenous voice to parliament sooner rather than later if the referendum is to succeed, Uluru Dialogue co-chair Megan Davis says.

Recent polling has shown voters are broadly supportive of changing the constitution to enshrine the voice but have limited understanding of what it will involve.

The Albanese government has proposed adding three sentences to the constitution outlining the creation of a body which would represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It would advise parliament and the government on matters relating to Indigenous people but would be "subservient" to legislation.

The government will work with First Nations leaders, including Professor Davis, to determine the timing for a successful referendum and the public information needed for it to pass.

Having spent more than a decade working towards the reform as a constitutional law expert, Prof Davis said educating voters would be critical.

"That polling's not surprising but it is obviously impetus to get that detail to the Australian people as soon as possible, or at least in a reasonable time frame in the lead-in to a referendum," she told AAP.

"Australians don't forensically scrutinise everything the parliament and the Senate do. So there's a lot of work that we have to do to educate the Australian community."

Prof Davis, from the University of NSW's Indigenous Law Centre, is leading a nationwide consultation process with constitutional and public law experts on the proposed amendment and the wording of the referendum question.

She said the amendment proposed by Mr Albanese was a "starting point" for the final model, with mixed views on how simple the wording should be.

"Obviously one of the spin-offs of that is brevity might lead to uncertainty," she said.

"And then if you have an over-elaborated provision, you might fence in the voice in a way that you don't want for all time.

"You need to build in flexibility and agility."

Prof Davis said the leadership of Mr Albanese, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Senator Pat Dodson would be key to helping to secure the reform.

She believed there was momentum for change, with the referendum requiring a majority vote and the support of the majority of states to pass.

"I've never seen a prime minister like this (who is) so incredibly resolute and supportive of something like the Uluru Statement from the Heart," she said.

"When you look around the world and the history of constitutional transformation anywhere in the world, the one thing that researchers single out is leadership ... there's really strong leadership here right across the government."