Noel Pearson is urging Aboriginal Australians never to stop fighting for a constitutional voice in the parliament despite Malcolm Turnbull's rejection.
Aboriginal Australians will never stop fighting for a permanent parliamentary voice just because an "ordinary person" like Malcolm Turnbull rejected the Uluru Statement proposal, says Cape York leader Noel Pearson.
The Prime Minister dismissed the Referendum Council's proposal for an Indigenous voice in parliament last year, calling it light on detail and undemocratic.
Mr Pearson says that "destroyed" those involved in the campaign.
Aboriginal people's presence in Australia for 60,000 years gave them a moral and historical right to an independent advisory body, Mr Pearson told the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land on Saturday.
"If the Prime Minister tells you 'no, it can't be done', what do you do? Say, 'okay, you must be right'? You can't be like that, you can't be that weak," he said.
Recognising First Nations people in the constitution was a priority that needed to happen for a foundation before a treaty could occur, he said.
"You have got to be pinned down in the most fundamental law of the nation where power resides. Without it we'll get pushed around, without it the question will be deferred once again.
"Without it we'll enter into some prosaic discussions about housing, health ... what (anthropologist William) Stanner called the 'one-eyed hobby horses of Australian policy', everyone's favourite discussion about how it is that we might lift the Indigenes from their misery.
"Until we get to the heart of the matter .. all of these hobby horses lined up with great fidelity and energy will not resolve this issue; we have got to have a foundational negotiation."
For young First Nations people, it was a fight "to retain their culture and identify to sustain their communities and build a future for their children; this is a life and death matter ... no muck-about on Twitter", he said.
Many of Aboriginal Australia's social problems came to a head earlier this year when the rape of a two-year-old girl in Tennant Creek shocked the nation. Mr Turnbull soon after became the first PM in decades to visit the town.
Mr Pearson said he had no doubt Australians would support an Aboriginal voice to parliament if parliament and the political parties "would allow the question to be put".
A joint parliamentary committee chaired by Labor senator Patrick Dodson and coalition MP Julian Leeser released an interim report last week saying the move had broad support.
Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he agreed it would be better to have an Aboriginal voice in the constitution but it needed to be a successful process; it would be irresponsible to go to the Australian people otherwise.