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PM urges political leaders not to miss Voice opportunity

Jarred Cross -

Anthony Albanese has warned Australia's political leaders "not to miss this opportunity" for constitutional recognition of First Nations people.

The Prime Minister made the plea alongside Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Uluru Statement co-author Aunty Pat Anderson at Inner West Council's BBQ for the Voice to Parliament in Sydney on Saturday.

To the hundreds-strong crowd, Mr Albanese clarified the purpose of the Voice and its capacity to inform, not override or enforce, parliamentary decision-making should Australians vote in favour of the proposal later this year.

Inner West Council's Voice to Parliament BBQ, Feb 18, 2022. image Jarred Cross

"This referendum, which will be heard sometime between October and December of this year, is about two things. It's about recognition and it's about consultation," he said

"That is what it's about and that's what we need to deliver. There is a lot of misinformation out there, but it's a very clear proposition.

Highlighting the timeline since the 1967 referendum, the push for constitutional recognition and Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Prime Minister asked: "​If not now, when?"

Aunty Pat echoed Mr Albanese's calls stating "now is a good time".

After sharing details of the Uluru Statement's development, she encouraged Australia to make a step on its "historic journey" from a time when her mother was subjected to policy not to teach Indigenous people literacy skills and "segregated cinemas..shops you couldn't go into" to "a more just Australia and to a more unified Australia".

The principles of the referendum working group advisory body were defined as independent, chosen by Indigenous people, representative of a broad spectrum of people, community-led, accountable and transparent, to operate alongside existing bodies working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that it will not deliver programs for funding and not have a power to veto decisions.

"Those principles are very clear," Mr Albanese said.

"They're there for every parliamentarian to understand and that is why this is such a gracious and generous offer that will give respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

"(The Voice) will send the message to the world that we're a mature nation, that we're prepared to come to terms with our history and who we are, that we're proud of who we are.

"This is an opportunity to unite our nation and I say to those in positions of political leadership do not miss this opportunity this time."

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney chose not to comment on political division surrounding the Voice in favour of stating her that her government is "looking forward".

"This is a unifying moment for this country," she told National Indigenous Times.

"It's about truth.. It's about recognising 65,000 years in our birth certificate, and most importantly, it is about closing that gap."

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