Australian of the Year Adam Goodes has urged fellow Australians to get behind a campaign for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.
The AFL star spoke at the We Want Recognition event at Sydney's Wayside Chapel on Tuesday in an effort to increase public awareness about constitutional change.
"There's nothing in the constitution right now - not a single word - that mentions that anyone was here in 1788. So we need to acknowledge that simple fact," the Sydney Swans player said.
Goodes said achieving recognition was a personal issue for him as his mother was a member of the stolen generation and many of his family members were displaced, leaving unanswered questions about his heritage.
"It's been a tough journey. It's been a journey that my mum and my aunties have been on for over 40 years of their life to try and find out where they'd come from," he said.
"This document is 113 years old and times have changed. Back when it was written, officialdom thought of Aboriginal people as a dying race, today the majority of Australians know how essential the unique Indigenous cultures are to our nation's very identity, so we need our constitution to catch up.
"So we need to fix the silence of our history in this founding document to reflect to future generations that Australia's history doesn't just start suddenly in 1788 with the establishment of the British colony."
In 2012 the Federal Government's expert panel recommended an Australian referendum be held to amend the Constitution to recognise Australia's first peoples.
Senior Australian of the Year and former Aboriginal affairs minister Fred Chaney was on the expert panel and said the wording of any referendum would be of particular importance if it was going to succeed.
There's nothing in the constitution right now - not a single word - that mentions that anyone was here in 1788. So we need to acknowledge that simple fact
Australian of the Year Adam Goodes
"The experience of referendums is they're very hard to win - we've only won eight in the whole history of Australia. So the work that's currently being done in parliament to produce, if possible, unanimity in the parliament is a very important step in this process," he said.
"I think there are two critical groups to keep on board. One is the Aboriginal leadership right round the country which needs to be satisfied this is good for the Indigenous people of Australia.
"And I think that Australian conservatives need to be satisfied that this is a real improvement to the constitution and not in any way a subversion of it.
"There are many conservatives who would be in favour of recognition of Indigenous people in the constitution but are worried by any suggestion of anything that smells like a bill of rights. And I think that's the issue that the parliamentary committee would be grappling with."
Mr Chaney said while there was seemingly bipartisan political support for a referendum and constitutional recognition, increasing public awareness about the issue was also vital.
It's been a tough journey. It's been a journey that my mum and my aunties have been on for over 40 years of their life to try and find out where they'd come from
Australian of the Year Adam Goodes
"The public is naturally focused at the moment, for example, on its particular financial interests, on the economy. But I think we do need to get the Australian people to see this as something that is important for all of them," he said.
"This is not something that is just for Indigenous people, this is for all of us to actually have a constitution which reflects the reality of Australia today and the reality of our history."
The Recognise movement was set up to increase awareness of the issue and so far over 180,000 people have supported its website.
But Goodes said much more support was needed to bring constitutional recognition to fruition, including support from Aboriginal people.
"It's going to take an ever bigger groundswell of popular support for our political leaders to confidently lock in a referendum date," he said.
"I think we need all our brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles to support this movement because I think a lot of Australian people wouldn't get behind this if the Aboriginal people didn't want this for ourselves."
A draft model of possible referendum questions was expected to be released later this year.