Working group to answer big questions leading up to Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum
The government is primed to announce a working group on the referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
That group will be tasked with answering some of the big questions on the process in the lead-up to the referendum.
The referendum's timing, question and information on the Voice to Parliament will all fall under the remit of the group, made up of more than 20 Indigenous leaders from across the country.
Notable names include Pat Anderson, Marcia Langton, Tom Calma, Pat Turner, Ken Wyatt and June Oscar.
It will be co-chaired by Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement Patrick Dodson.
Ms Burney will officially announce the working group as part of her address on Thursday at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia's State of the Nation forum.
"These are the next steps, the plan on the road to the referendum," Ms Burney said.
"There is much to work to do, many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum.
"Let's be clear, government cannot lead this referendum. This will come from the grassroots."
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While the majority of Australians say they support a Voice to Parliament, polls suggest very few confidently understand what it would be.
The government has come under fire for failing to adequately answer big questions about the Voice, such as who will be part of it, the election process and what the powers of the body will be.
It's expected the working group will take on answering those questions, with one of the key tasks being providing information to the public for a successful referendum.
"The Voice is a nation-building project, Ms Burney said.
We will need a united "Yes" campaign that captures the attention and the imagination of the Australian people."
The group will meet for the first time on Friday.
A second "engagement" group has also been commissioned, made up of representatives from land councils, local government and community-controlled service organisations.
The engagement group will assist with understanding of the Voice and support for the "yes" campaign among First Nations people and the broader community.
To get First Nations representatives to engage with government, build broad community consensus, and harness the goodwill in the community on a "yes" campaign, the government wants to see the two groups work in tandem.
"Everyone has a part to play. From sports clubs and schools to community groups, and, of course, the business community, Ms Burney said.
"It's everyone's responsibility to get this done."
The government will also be looking to shore up support from the Greens and the opposition, with most of the crossbench already backing the Voice plan.
And The Greens have said they won't block a referendum bill in the Senate, but their Indigenous Affairs spokesperson, Senator Lidia Thorpe, has been vocal in her criticism of the government's plan, deeming a referendum as a "waste of money".
The opposition is yet to reveal its stance on the Voice, with shadow Indigenous Australians Minister Julian Leeser previously saying he would need to see more detail before he declared his view.
Linda Burney said the referendum will have a lasting impact on First Nations people.
"In the years to come, we will be able to measure the success of 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," Ms Burney said.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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