The prime minister has failed to commit to an Indigenous voice to parliament referendum question, warning that Australians are "constitutionally conservative".
During a speech at the Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land, Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged many Aboriginal leaders were disappointed the government didn't give "instant fulfilment" to the Referendum Council's single recommendation of an Indigenous advisory body.
Mr Turnbull said he was respecting the council's report by giving it careful consideration and called for bipartisan collaboration to develop a winnable referendum question to put to Australian voters.
"This cannot be a take it or leave it proposal ... an all or nothing approach, sometimes results in nothing," he said on Saturday.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has urged Malcolm Turnbull to commence a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to advise parliament on the next steps towards a successful referendum.
In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr Shorten says the ‘best chance of success for any proposal for constitutional change rests on the active engagement of Indigenous Australians in the process’ in addition to strong support across the parliament.
Mr Shorten proposes a bipartisan, parliamentary process be established for working through the necessary detail so that a question for a referendum can be finalised.
Prominent Aboriginal Australian Noel Pearson on Friday delivered a scathing assessment of the "miserable" political leadership shown by Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten towards constitutional reform.
Many senior Aboriginal figures had hoped for a bipartisan commitment to an indigenous advisory body referendum question at the four-day event on Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
But Mr Pearson echoed the bitter disappointment of Referendum Co-chair Pat Anderson, who slammed the "empty platitudes" offered by both politicians as gutless.
"It is such a miserable scene, the leadership scene in Australia," Mr Pearson said.
"Political cycles come and go, but this agenda will never go away."
Mr Shorten called for a joint parliamentary select committee to finalise a question to put to voters, but Ms Anderson said indigenous Australians needed another expert panel "like a hole in the head".
She said Mr Turnbull, who delivered some of his opening ceremony speech in Yolgnu Matha language, had been disrespectful to land rights champion Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who stressed the urgent need to resolve unfinished business of reconciliation and self-determination.
"We live side by side, but we're not yet united," Dr Yunupingu said.
"At Uluru we started a fire. A fire that we hope burns bright for Australia," he said.
"We live side by side but we're not yet united... this is the perfect place for us to find our path to a settlement."