The Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, says there will be extensive consultation with Indigenous leaders and engagement with the wider Australian community as the Labor government seeks to enshrine a voice to parliament in the constitution.
Burney, speaking at the Garma festival in Arnhem Land, also said Labor had a plan “five years in the making”, as she sought to clear up questions and confusion about the government’s approach.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who on Saturday revealed the possible wording of a simple yes or no referendum question on the voice, told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday he wanted to avoid the “cul-de-sac” of getting stuck in the details early in the process.
Albanese said such details run the risk of derailing momentum and were “not a recipe for success”.
“We were faced with the challenge of do you wait until everyone is in agreement of every element?” Albanese told ABC’s Insiders, broadcasting from the Garma festival on Sunday.
“But I’m faced with the question, as prime minister of this country … if not now, when?”
Burney reassured those seeking details that there would be rounds of consultation.
“We will consult, we will talk to people and answer the things that people are anxious about,” she said.
“But I can assure you the way in which we will move is carefully, collaboratively, and bringing people with us. That’s what’s important.”
She said “the immediate next step is to consult with the Aboriginal leadership, to consult across the party but most importantly engage with the Australian community”.
“Our job is about talking to people, listening to people, listening to different ideas and coalescing those ideas, and look at the work that has already been done – more than 10 years of expert work.”
Albanese made clear that his preference was for parliament to debate how a voice will look and operate, after the question was put to the Australian people – a question he hoped would appeal to the “common decency” of the nation.
He also said there was no way of moving forward that was without risk of failure, but was confident this way would work.
“There is a risk here,” he said. “There is a risk of not advancing … [or] the risk is that you concede a lack of success by not having the question. We will have to … have a referendum. We will have a debate in the parliament. Part of that will be about what a voice will look like.”
Questions have been raised about this approach, with some people asking to see greater detail about representation, voting and governance. These issues were at the fore during a forum at Garma festival on Sunday.
Sean Gordon, chair of Uphold and Recognise, an organisation that promotes a conservative approach to Indigenous constitutional recognition, said that Aboriginal communities, having convinced the government to move forward recognition, must “enter the next phase” to organise a successful yes campaign. He said this would include setting up a fundraising structure to accept donations for the campaign, which would need at least $20m.
Gordon said lessons needed to be learned from the unsuccessful republican referendum campaign and also from the successful same-sex marriage plebiscite.
“If we don’t do that we’ll be dead in the water,” he said, noting the same-sex marriage campaign involved different groups working together.
Burney told a taping of Monday night’s Q&A program, filmed at the Garma site on Saturday night, that the Indigenous voice would be elected.
While she would not elaborate on that statement, she did say that Labor had a plan “five years in the making” in response to the Uluru statement.
“This is not a road to Damascus moment,” she said.
“The important thing is this: it’s not wise to be rushed on this. It’s important to make sure this is not the domain of politicians, this is a referendum for the Australian people.”