Economy

Federal budget money for indigenous voice

The federal government has set aside millions of dollars to pursue a national vote on an indigenous voice to parliament.

Millions of dollars have been set aside to pursue an indigenous voice to federal parliament, despite the prime minister's opposition to the idea.

Scott Morrison now concedes the proposal is an important issue, but says he is more focused on youth suicides in remote indigenous communities.

Buried deep in the federal budget is $7.3 million to develop a model for the indigenous voice, which the government plans to put to Australian voters in a national referendum.

Late last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected an indigenous voice to parliament, claiming it would be nothing more than a "third chamber" of power.

However, a bipartisan committee later urged the government to kick-start a co-design process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The budget papers said the government "remains committed" to the process of constitutional recognition for indigenous people, and will conduct a referendum once a model has been settled.

The prime minister said the indigenous voice is an important issue.

"But what remains even more important, to be honest, is the package we announced the other night," he told reporters in southern NSW on Thursday.

Mr Morrison was referring to federal funding for youth mental health and suicide prevention.

"Youth suicide is reaching devastatingly into remote indigenous communities," he said.

"If you ask me what my number one priority is for indigenous Australians, I want to do everything I can to ensure that young indigenous Australians don't take their own lives.

"That's my priority for indigenous Australians, and I'm very certain that would be the priority of indigenous parents for their children."

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