Australia may finally have a First Nations voice to parliament, after a weekend of Black Lives Matter protests put Indigenous issues back in the spotlight.

While the government is still holding off on having a referendum on the issue, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has said he hopes to have some kind of public consultation to establish a First Nations voice to parliament before the year’s end.

“We’re confident that the Australian people will be able to have their say on an Indigenous voice this year,” Wyatt told the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.

“We’re progressing work and every Australian who wants to have a say will be able to have a say.

“We know that policy works best when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision making.”

Wayatt had previously said there wouldn’t be a referendum on the issue this year because it was “too important to fail” during the pandemic.

Yothu Yindi CEO Denise Bowden signs the Uluru Statement from the Heart. (Australian Human Rights Commission / CC-BY)

By having an informal public consultation as opposed to a referendum, the process could be sped up despite the coronavirus pandemic and whatever else is going on.

However, it also means the voice to parliament wouldn’t be enshrined in the constitution, as that would still need a referendum to happen.

A First Nations voice to parliament would be purely consultative or advisory role. That means it wouldn’t be able to vote on legislation, or veto any government decisions.

It’s one of the recommendations of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was presented to to Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, who were then Australia’s Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, respectively.

They more or less ignored it at the time, and it’s been in limbo ever since.

Image: AAP / Glenn Hunt / Mick Tsikas