Australians are to decide in a referendum to be held in 2023 if the country’s constitution will be changed to give an institutional voice to the long-suffering Indigenous population.

The government made the announcement on Wednesday, and if successful, it would not only be the first acknowledgement of Indigenous people in the constitution

but also rectify their historical exclusion from parliamentary processes. If approved, the constitution will be changed to have Indigenous people permanently represented in government.

The proposed “Voice to Parliament” aims to give Indigenous Australians a greater say in national policy-making, as they battle poorer health, lower incomes and higher barriers to education.

Indigenous Australians are not currently mentioned in the constitution – adopted in 1901 – and any move to change that is politically contentious.

The centre-left Labor government was elected in May and had promised to hold a referendum on the issue, but had shied away from setting a date until now.

Speaking at a folk festival in the state of Queensland later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will say that the vote will be held “next year”