• Aboriginal indigenous leader Noel Pearson speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AAP)
Indigenous recognition must come before referendums on extended parliamentary terms or on becoming a republic.
11 Aug 2017 - 11:24 AM  UPDATED 11 Aug 2017 - 11:25 AM

Cape York figure Noel Pearson is urging Australia's leaders to prioritise a national vote on indigenous recognition above other proposals to become a republic and extend parliamentary terms.

While he does not believe efforts to legalise same sex marriage would set back a push to recognise indigenous Australians in the nation's founding document, Mr Pearson says additional referendum proposals could get in the way.

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"If there's not a commitment to running a referendum in the life of this parliament, we will lose this opportunity," he told the Queensland Media Club on Thursday.

"Yes, a number of constitutional reform propositions have been floated by the leader of the opposition: a republic, four-year parliamentary terms and so on.

"I would just urge that those issues be definitely pushed back to another term.

It would be grossly unfair if the indigenous recognition referendum is not first cab off the rank."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten renewed his promise for a referendum on Australia becoming a republic last month and has also sought coalition support for extending parliamentary terms from three years to four.

Debate over indigenous recognition in the nation's founding document has dragged on for a decade.

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"I only make the observation that, you know, if we don't deal with a referendum in the life of this parliament, we will definitely be kicking this can down the road," Mr Pearson added.

The Referendum Council, of which he is a member, has advised Mr Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to hold a national vote for a representative body that gives indigenous Australians a voice in federal parliament.

It also recommended legislating a Declaration of Recognition in all Australian parliaments, containing "inspiring and unifying words" articulating the nation's shared history, heritage and aspirations.

AAP