Australia will set up an expert panel to lead a national discussion on a referendum recognising indigenous people in the constitution.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard told a news conference on Monday that indigenous people have a unique and special place in the Australian nation.
She says there is bipartisan support in parliament for the constitutional change.
The panel will report to government by the end of 2011.
It will include indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, community leaders, constitutional experts and MPs.
Ms Gillard says the government has left open the option of whether the referendum would be held before or at the next federal election.