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Short campaign on the cards for Voice referendum

Voters can expect a short, sharp campaign ahead of the referendum for the Indigenous Voice.

While attending the annual Garma Festival in remote northeast Arnhem Land, Anthony Albanese confirmed he would not use the occasion to announce the referendum date.

The prime minister said the festival was an opportunity to discuss the benefits of the Voice for Indigenous people.

"Historically in Australia, we don't have 10-week or 12-week referendum campaigns," he said.

"There hasn't been a referendum held this century, which is why I don't think people want a date announced many months in advance, and then a long day-to-day campaign."

The referendum to enshrine the Voice in the constitution will be held between October and December.

Mr Albanese was later handed a ceremonial spear, which he held up in front of the crowd as they were urged to "say yes" to the Voice.

He told reporters he would be speaking with attendees at Garma about their views on a potential referendum date.

He said while the debate surrounding the Voice could be viewed as divisive among Indigenous Australians, it was needed to achieve the constitutional change.

"This is something that is for First Nations people, but it is more than that - it is something for all of us to be lifted up," Mr Albanese said.

Peter Dutton won't be attending the festival, but senior Liberal Angus Taylor said the opposition leader had already visited Arnhem Land and Alice Springs twice, as well as a number of other communities.

"This is where you find out what's really going on on the ground - in and amongst those communities," Mr Taylor said.

"I don't think a festival is the time to see the real issues playing out on the ground."

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said it was an "important festival" where "good conversations" would take place.

"But reconciliation and indigenous policy is about more than one festival and one day," she said.

Some $6.4 million in funding from the Aboriginals Benefit Account has been announced for the design and development of the Garma Institute by the Yothu Yindi Foundation.

The foundation already offers a Yolngu-centred curriculum for school students through the Dhupuma Barker School at Gunyangara, a 1000-kilometre drive east of Darwin.

The independent bilingual school has driven strong attendance rates and improved education outcomes.

The institute will give the students a pathway to continue their higher education.

The prime minister said the school was an example of the improved outcomes that came when Indigenous voices were listened to.

"The Dhupuma Barker School at Gunyangara is truly a local success, the school attendance rates show what works," he said.

"It arose from listening, it arose from government following decision-making from the bottom up, which is why it is so important."

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said the Garma Institute would give Yolngu people the opportunity to continue their education without having to move away from family.

The benefit account receives money from the Commonwealth based on royalties generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.

Rudi Maxwell and Andrew Brown - AAP


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