Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants to harness parliamentary support for greater recognition of Aborigine people in a bid to improve conditions for the deprived community.

Australia will hold a referendum to give constitutional recognition for indigenous people, which Gillard hopes will lead to “a nation based on strong relationships and mutual respect”.

Indigenous Australians constitute 2.7 per cent of the population, but they suffer disproportionately high rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, unemployment, disease and imprisonment.

“The Australian constitution is the foundation document of our system of government, but it fails to recognise the special place of our first Australians,” said Gillard, in a joint statement with the minister for indigenous affairs and the attorney-general.

A date for the vote has not yet been announced.