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Indigenous referendum within three years

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(AAP Image/Vera Devai)

Australians will have the chance to vote on changing the constitution to recognise the nation's first peoples within the next three years.

But Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt says strict conditions must be met before a referendum can be held.

"We need consensus, but we'd need the right set of words," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"What people don't realise is that whatever words you insert into the constitution, they can have significant implications way beyond the simple wording."

Mr Wyatt will detail his plan for achieving constitutional recognition in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra.

The minister said he and Labor counterpart Linda Burney needed to find an approach to get everyone onside.

"Linda Burney and I will be charged with finding that consensus that our people agree to, that the majority of Australians would accept and the majority of states and territory," he said.

"It's a high hurdle to have to leap over, but it's one that protects our democracy."

The minister says the concept has strong corporate support and is hoping organisations will back it, like they did at the 1967 referendum.

Australians overwhelmingly voted on that occasion for changes to the constitution to include Indigenous people in the census and allow the federal government to create laws for them.

"We've got to go back to the model of the '67 referendums where the unions became leaders, where churches and external organisations, but our own Aboriginal organisations need to also be at the forefront of all of that process."

Developing an indigenous voice to parliament must also be part of the process, he said.

"When I take the notion of the voice, that voice was not just a singular voice, it is voices at every level."

"It is unfinished businesses, but I think there is a tremendous groundswell of goodwill."

The Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 called for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution and the creation of a powerful "Makarrata Commission" of elected elders that would supervise agreement-making between government and indigenous people.

But the proposal was shot down by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said the advisory body "would inevitably become seen as a third chamber of parliament".

Mr Wyatt's address comes six weeks after the Perth MP became the first Aboriginal person to have ministerial stewardship of indigenous affairs.

© AAP 2019