Historic Indigenous Voice heard at Garma

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The red dust may be settling as this year's Garma Festival draws to a close but the memories of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's historic Indigenous Voice to parliament speech will long remain.

It was the highlight of the four-day celebration of Yolngu culture and traditions, at an ancient ceremonial ground overlooking the ocean in Arnhem Land, which wound up on Monday.

About 1000 people gathered in and around a tin shed to hear the prime minister outline a path which could lead to Indigenous Australians finally being recognised in the Constitution, more than 100 years after it was written.

Mr Albanese told the crowd on Saturday that Australia was ready for the reform as he revealed the recommended referendum question and the three lines that could be added to the founding document.

It was met with a standing ovation as the prime minister walked off stage to shake hands with Indigenous leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who pulled the prime minister in close and spoke to him.

"Can I hold you to your word," he's said to have asked. "Absolutely," the prime minister replied, according to young Yolngu leader Mayatili Marika, who was sitting next to Mr Yunupingu.

The jubilation had started a day earlier when Mr Albanese arrived at Gulka, where he took part in a men's ceremony and had his forehead painted yellow with the Yolngu people.

Dozens of traditional dancers wearing face and body paint then performed in the red dirt in an emotional welcome to country ceremony before Mr Yunupingu presented the prime minister with a Yolngu didgeridoo.

Mr Albanese stood and raised the Dhadalal Yidaki into the air to cheers before telling the crowd the nation should "cherish" its Indigenous culture and "recognise it in our national birth certificate".

Excitement filled the festival ground, hungry for history to be made, as Yolngu dancers covered in white paint and carrying red flags then escorted the prime minister and other leaders to the Bungul ceremony site where the celebrations continued.

Back after a two-year COVID-19-enforced hiatus, Garma also provides a platform for the corporate and not-for-profit sectors to engage with traditional owners.

Set in a stringybark forest, the massive tent-strewn site boasted an outdoor cinema, cafe, bush library, music venue, a youth program and art exhibitions, along with a visit from US ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

Attendees took yoga and astronomy classes, listened to actor Jack Thompson read poetry, learned about Yolngu culture and dined at a corporate dinner with no alcohol.

But the real action happened out of sight around campfires where leaders met and chatted, and corporations, such as Telstra and Westpac, pledged financial support for the coming campaign to make a Voice reality.

Debate about how a Voice might work also dominated the daily forum as ageing Indigenous leaders reminded the country that prime ministers had made commitments to traditional owners in previous generations and not kept them.

"It has hurt us a lot to hear these promises made to our faces only to see the promises betrayed," Yothu Yindi Foundation board member Djawa Yunuping said.

What became clear amid the triumph was that not all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders supported the current Voice plan and a lot of work needs to be done to educate Australians before constitutional change can be put to a vote.

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokesman Julian Leeser, who was part of the bi-partisan political delegation at Garma, called for more information in a sign of what lay ahead for the Uluru Statement from the Heart campaign.

"Who will serve on it? How they will be chosen? What will it do and how will it affect people?" he told reporters immediately after Mr Albanese's speech.

"You will need to see that detail from the government before you will make a decision about whether you'll support this."

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