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Education plea ahead of Indigenous voice referendum

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An architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart has pleaded with Australians to educate themselves ahead of a referendum on enshrining an Indigenous voice into the constitution.

Internationally renowned advocate Pat Anderson is among three Indigenous leaders accepting the Sydney Peace Prize for the statement.

It calls for an enshrined voice and for the Makarrata Commission to "supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history".

Ms Anderson, an Alyawarre woman, reflected most Australians don't understand the statement.

"You have to inform yourselves. It doesn't matter which way you vote - do it with some consciousness, with some heart, and with some intellect," Ms Anderson told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"There comes a time when you are at the ballot box and it's just you and your conscience.

"Get yourself ready for that time in your life because (for) all of us over 18, this is probably one of the biggest things we are ever going to do."

Australians have to suspend any doubts about whether change can really happen, and instead imagine what they could collectively achieve, Ms Anderson said.

"There is great potential in this country and I think the time is right."

Ms Anderson warned the country must make haste when it comes to holding the referendum, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said will be in his first term of government.

The date Ms Anderson has most recently heard is October 2023, she said.

"If we go into the next term or what have you, (then) in my view we have lost the momentum and the government and all of us will get sidetracked by a lot of other things," she said.

"The world is changing as we speak."

The government has established two working groups to determine logistics for enshrining a voice in the constitution.

The proposed question for the referendum would be: "Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice?"

Fellow Uluru Statement architect Professor Megan Davis delivered an address at the Press Club on Wednesday, re-extending the invitation for Australians to walk with Indigenous people towards change.

She will accept the Sydney Peace Prize along with Ms Anderson.

Ms Anderson has served as co-chair of the Referendum Council, while Prof Davis was a member of the council and the Experts Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples in the Constitution.

The Referendum Council was tasked with consulting with Indigenous people in preparation for the Uluru Statement at a time when "consultation had become a dirty word", Prof Davis said.

She pointed to bureaucracy and policy being completely disconnected from Indigenous peoples' lives and when they approached communities "they were not in the mood to discuss constitutional reform".

People are impatient for detail on the voice, but there is very little scrutiny on why it is wanted and needed, Prof Davis said.

Implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart means delivering Indigenous people a voice capable of reflecting their aspirations, and getting First Nations people a constitutionally insured and secured seat at the table, Prof Davis said.

Story by Cassandra Morgan, AAP


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