Prime Minister Tony Abbott works with cattle at the Gumatj Cattle Station on the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Prime minister Tony Abbott together with ministers and parliamentary secretaries will run the country from Nhulunbuy making good on his election promise to spend time in remote indigenous communities this week.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott works with cattle at the Gumatj Cattle Station on the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. Prime minister Tony Abbott together with ministers and parliamentary secretaries will run the country from Nhulunbuy making good on his election promise to spend time in remote indigenous communities this week. AAP Image - Tracey Nearmy

Abbott pledges timeframe on recognition referendum

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to set a timeframe for a referendum on recognising Australia's first peoples in the Constitution, on the first day of his week "governing from a remote community".

Mr Abbott, in Arnhem Land on Monday, met with indigenous leaders including Yolngu leader Gallarwuy Yunupingu, as part of his promised week in remote indigenous communities.

After years of lobbying Canberra for a referendum on indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution, Mr Abbott gave the strongest signal yet he was considering such a vote.

However, he told ABC on Monday that a previous proposal from an expert committee convened by the previous government "does have some problems".

His key indigenous policy adviser, Cape York figure Noel Pearson, has also penned his thoughts on how to progress the national vote in a recent essay.

But Mr Abbott said while he would be talking to Mr Pearson during his Top End trip, the government was "at the start of this process, not the finish".

"It's important that we do this but it's most important of all that we get it right," he told ABC.

Mr Abbott said while he wanted to work towards a "unifying moment", if "we can't do that, it's better that it doesn't happen and we wait until a time when that can happen". - APN NEWSDESK



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