Voice referendum working group unveiled

·2-min read

Three "ingredients" key to a First Nations voice to parliament successfully passing a referendum will be the focus of a working group of First Nations leaders.

The group, including Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and WA senator Pat Dodson, will meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra on Friday to discuss progress on the initiative.

Ms Burney said the group would work with government to determine the timing for a successful referendum, refining the proposed question and the public information needed for it to pass.

A second team - the referendum engagement group - will provide advice on the campaign for the voice, engage with Indigenous communities and advocate for the advisory body.

Ms Burney, who will address the CEDA State of the Nation event on Thursday, says these are the "necessary ingredients to winning the referendum".

"The voice is a nation-building project ... we will need a united 'yes' campaign that captures the attention and the imagination of the Australian people," she said.

"In the years to come, we will be able to measure the success of the referendum not just by the number of people who vote for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice but by the lives that the voice helps to improve."

The Albanese government made an election pledge to hold a referendum in its first term.

The draft question to be put to the Australian people is: "Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?"

Greens First Nations spokeswoman Lidia Thorpe said she welcomed the extra detail about the process.

"Treaty is the way forward and treaty is obviously, as you know, part of the Uluru statement, and treaty is something we've been calling for for decades," she said.

Along with the voice, the Uluru statement also includes calls for a treaty and a truth-telling commission.

However, Senator Thorpe said more grass-roots members were needed in the working group.

She said many members selected by the government were "captain's picks".

"They haven't gone very far and wide, it's the same old people, so there's a lot of work to do," she said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said voters were cautious about constitutional change and the government had been unable to answer "basic questions" about the voice.

"We want to listen respectfully, reconciliation is important," he told 2GB radio.

"I think they're making it up on the run at the moment ... they are trying to rush it and want to get it through before the next election and bask in the glory of that.

"But if they put up a referendum that ends up failing because it hasn't been properly explained by the prime minister, that's a bad day."