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Australia enlists former US basketball star on Indigenous reform

Former US basketball star Shaquille O’Neal will help Australia’s new government implement reforms for an Indigenous voice to parliament, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said said, standing alongside NBA Hall of famer.

Albanese’s centre-left Labor Party government is seeking a referendum, needed to change the constitution, on recognising Indigenous people in the constitution and mandating consultation with them on decisions that affect their lives.

Details on the so-called Indigenous voice to parliament will follow the national referendum on the question, which the government wants to hold in the parliament’s current term.

“I’m here in your country, whatever you need from me you just let me know,” O’Neal told Albanese during a news conference in Sydney, before leaving without taking questions.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney told the news conference that O’Neal had requested to be involved and described the mission for change as “a noble task.”

READ MORE: Thousands march for aboriginal rights as Australia marks national day

Working for social justice

Albanese said O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion, had a track record in the United States of working for social justice and “lifting people up who are marginalised.”

“We want to build the broadest possible support and we want to engage with people who can connect with young people in particular but with all sections of society,” Albanese said.

“Shaq has that record of … bringing people together of different backgrounds which is consistent with our approach.”

O’Neal had agreed to do some videos on the issue, the prime minister said.

Labor committed to proposing a referendum while campaigning for the general election in May, when it ended almost a decade of rule by conservative Liberal-National coalition governments.

Australia’s Indigenous people have toiled for generations to win recognition for injustices since European colonisation in the 1700s. The constitution, which came into effect in 1901, does not refer to the country’s Indigenous people.

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