Mandawuy Yunupingu.

National campaign … Mandawuy Yunupingu. Photo: Edwina Pickles

TWENTY years after Treaty, the song that became the reconciliation movement anthem, Yothu Yindi's frontman, Mandawuy Yunupingu, has embraced constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians as the next step toward ''a truly united Australia''.

The 56-year-old elder from north-east Arnhem Land used the occasion of the band's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame on Thursday night to declare constitutional recognition would meet the principal objectives of a treaty.

''As musicians, recognition from our peers is important to us. As Aboriginal Australians, recognition from our constitution is even more important,'' an emotional Yunupingu said before performing Treaty.

Several indigenous artists wore T-shirts backing the push for a referendum after next year's election to recognise indigenous Australians, their language and culture and remove the last vestiges of racism from the constitution.

Inducting Yunupingu and the band were two artists who collaborated on Treaty, Paul Kelly and Peter Garrett.

Kelly told how he first saw Yothu Yindi more than 20 years ago when the band was opening for Midnight Oil in Chicago. ''They are not so much a band as a physical philosophy,'' Kelly said.

Yunupingu said he believed there was a real connect between the aspiration of the treaty and constitutional recognition.

While the song was spurred by the Hawke government's failure to honour a promise to enter into a treaty, he said the aim had always been to raise public awareness about the need for a settlement or reconciliation.

That ambition, he believed, was now within reach.