“We’re progressing work and every Australian who wants to have a say will be able to have a say.”
The government has postponed the most contentious part of the concept by pushing back a referendum to enshrine the voice in the constitution, with Mr Wyatt arguing it was “too important to fail” if done in a rush.
But the minister said the government was “committed to an Indigenous voice” to give communities a say in policies and decisions, a concept being described by some as a “voice to government” even though it is not given constitutional authority.
“Our priority is ensuring that Indigenous Australians are empowered to have their say, and that their views are heard by all levels of government,” the minister said.
“We know that policy works best when Indigenous Australians are at the centre of decision making.”
As an example, he cited the agreements to close APY lands in South Australia to visitors early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Wyatt must take the changes through the Coalition party room once the community has responded to the proposals, but the weekend marches in support of Indigenous rights have infuriated some Liberals and Nationals.
There was no mention of the protests or of Indigenous affairs during the Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, ahead of the resumption of Parliament on Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese raised the issue in the Labor caucus meeting, however, and told MPs the country needed to embrace the voice to Parliament for First Australians.
“The fact is we are all diminished while Indigenous incarceration rates are so horrific and no one is held to account for the 432 deaths in custody,” he said.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser, one of the party’s strongest supporters of an Indigenous voice, said it was important to ensure the agreed model led to input at a local, regional and national level, rather than being only about federal government.
Mr Leeser said an Indigenous voice on policy at the local or national level would not fix all problems but could give communities a way to air the concerns that triggered the weekend protests.
“I certainly assume the issues about Indigenous justice would be some of the things the voice would be dealing with,” he said.
NSW Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, another supporter of the plan, said the Uluru Statement calling for the voice was a “tangible pathway” to address Indigenous concerns.
“The issues raised by Indigenous Australians have been important and urgent for many years,” he said.
“Australia is a great country but it is not a great country for many Indigenous Australians.”
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.