Prime Minister Tony Abbott will fly out of Arnhem Land, interrupting his week-long stay in indigenous communities.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will interrupt his Arnhem Land trip to farewell troops bound for Iraq.
Mr Abbott is in north east Arnhem Land fulfilling his pre-election promise to spend a week in indigenous communities and has met school children and Yolngu elders.
But his program will be put on hold on Thursday while he farewells some of the 600 troops being deployed to Iraq to help combat Islamic State.
AAP understands Mr Abbott is considering visiting one of two bases – one being the Amberley RAAF base near Brisbane, where Super Hornet fighter jets are based.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten is also hoping to attend.
In the meantime, Mr Abbott spent his fourth day in Arnhem Land visiting the Yirrkala School after helping school attendance officers usher children into their classrooms.
School attendance officers are part of the government’s truancy policy which employs over 500 indigenous people in 73 communities around the country and credited with boosting attendance at Yirrkala School.
Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians is at the top of Mr Abbott’s agenda in Arnhem Land with timing being considered.
A joint selection committee, chaired by Liberal indigenous MP Ken Wyatt, recommended a referendum on it be held before or in the year of 2016.
On Wednesday, Mr Abbott all but ruled that out, saying it would be difficult to run a partisan campaign for recognition while in the middle of an election year.
He’s held talks with Mr Shorten in the past week and wants to consult with the opposition further.
It’s understood Mr Abbott’s preferred timing for a vote is 2017, which would fall outside of his government’s first term.
There’s concerns public awareness is not yet high enough to pass a referendum.
Mr Shorten conceded it could take a while to ensure success.
“It’s important that people agree with what the question is and what we’re trying to do. If that takes a little longer, then so be it,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Abbott has been running the government from a temporary tent village on the outskirts of Nhulunbuy with the help of several ministers.
He promised to give his undivided attention to indigenous people in the community but it has been somewhat diverted by the situation in Iraq.
He will fly back into Arnhem Land on Friday to observe a Norforce demonstration.