SYDNEY (Reuters) - Qantas on Monday unveiled plans for some aircraft to carry special livery supporting recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Island people in Australia's constitution, stepping into the divisive debate on Indigenous rights.
Australians will vote in a landmark referendum later this year on whether they support altering the constitution to include a "Voice to Parliament", an Indigenous committee to advise parliament on matters affecting First Nations people.
Support for the proposal has been dipping in recent months, according to opinion polls.
The national carrier said livery featuring a 'Yes23' logo, asking Australians to vote Yes in the referendum, will be carried on three aircraft: a Qantas Boeing 737, a QantasLink Dash 8 Turboprop and a Jetstar Airbus A320.
"We are supporting the Yes23 campaign because we believe a formal voice to government will help close the gap for First Nations people in important areas like health, education and employment," Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told a press conference revealing the new livery.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said every Australian will have an opportunity in the referendum "to show respect, to uplift our whole nation and to send a message to the world that we are a confident mature nation."
"Australia has been talking about this for a very long time and that is why it is absolutely time for us to say yes," he said at the event.
Australia's Indigenous people are not mentioned in the constitution. They make up about 3.2% of its near 26 million population and track below national averages on most socio-economic measures.
Supporters of the 'Voice to Parliament' argue that voting yes will help mend fraught ties with the Aboriginal community and "unite the nation", while opponents say the move would hand excessive powers to the Indigenous people.
In addition to the Yes livery, Qantas will support the Yes23 campaign teams with travel so they can engage with regional and remote Australians ahead of the referendum, the company said in a statement.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)