John Howard's attempt to insert a preamble in the constitution made for an entertaining national debate when poet Les Murray helped him write what amounted to a flabby set of words that enshrined "mateship", railed against political correctness (in the guise of "fashion or ideology"), and recognised Indigenous people.
A different set of words finally made it to the vote, including a sentence that arguably stuck Indigenous people in the glass case of a museum, "honouring" them "for their deep kinship with their lands and for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country".
That preamble was soundly defeated 20 years ago. Now, we argue the point again.
Ken Wyatt knows better than most just how ambitious a timetable he has set himself for a referendum in the next three years on Indigenous recognition in the constitution.
"Constitutional propositions are not readily accepted by Australians," Wyatt said in 2017, mired as he was then in debate over the detail of the Uluru statement.
The real difficulty, though, is not in getting recognition through a referendum as it is in getting it to a referendum. How likely is it that Wyatt and the Coalition can unite the Indigenous population on a simple set of words acceptable to both sides of Parliament tout de suite, so it has time to go to a national vote?
Given the decade of debate and discussion and inquiry and convocation, perhaps the answer is not very.
Wyatt himself acknowledged this on Wednesday, telling the press club: "Constitutional recognition is too important to get wrong, and too important to rush."
He was the chairman of a parliamentary inquiry set up in 2013 for just this purpose: to report on how to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution. His inquiry, following the lead of an expert panel set up in 2010, came up with a simple set of words - essentially, recognising that Australia was first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders, acknowledging that indigenous people have a continuing relationship with their land and waters, and respecting the culture, language and heritage.
Constitutional recognition is too important to get wrong, and too important to rush.Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt
But it has become a whole lot more complicated since.
A Referendum Council was set up, a constitutional convention was held, and in 2017 the Uluru statement was issued. It called not simply for a set of words, but for a new Indigenous body to be enshrined in the constitution. The new body would be a "voice" for the first peoples to speak to Parliament.
The Voice, a term uniformly capitalised, is now Wyatt's focus, and through "co-design" - a fancy term for Aboriginal people being involved - he will try to pin down what, precisely, the voice will look like and how it will work.
"The Voice need not be a single national body but may involve local and regional structures", yet another parliamentary inquiry reported late last year. The voice that will ring in your ear when you heard those words is probably saying, remember ATSIC, or perhaps your memory goes back further still.
In 1973, Whitlam set up the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, an elected group which advised the government on Indigenous affairs - a bit like "the Voice". It lasted just four years. In 1977 the government replaced it with the National Aboriginal Conference, with the same remit. It lasted till 1985.
In 1989, ATSIC followed, an Indigenous self-governing body with a bureaucracy, a $1.3 billion budget, a degree of autonomy, an elected indigenous board and an elected regional structure of 35 councils. But it, too, bit the dust, abolished with the stroke of a pen by John Howard in 2005.
This history of setting up Indigenous groups to advise government only to have governments bin them presumably explains the need for the new body to be enshrined in the constitution.
But there are two main problems with the Voice. First, no one has been able to define it. Last year's parliamentary inquiry reported "a lack of consensus on how to give effect to [the Voice] in practical terms", and "significant questions about the form and function of The Voice" and "a wide range of views on how best to resolve these questions".
Second, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have both already rejected it, saying it would look like a third chamber of Parliament, and was too radical to pass a referendum.
Wyatt's speech on Wednesday was seen by some as breathing life back into the Voice, but his speech also suggested a reluctance to tie it to the constitution, as demanded by the Uluru statement. He defined the Voice as "a cry to all tiers of government to stop and listen to the voices of Indigenous Australians" rather than a specific constitutional body.
So it seems highly unlikely that anything as ambitious as a new Aboriginal body will make it anywhere near the constitution. And no one is any the wiser this week about what words recognising Indigenous Australians might finally make it to a referendum.
Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine acknowledged the number of reports and inquiries over the past decade but said the significance of this week's announcement was "a bit of a re-setting of a relationship with this new government and a bit of a timetable and a bit of process on how we get to the next step and that makes me hopeful".
Reconciliation Australia co-chairman Tom Calma said while there was nothing in Wednesday's announcement he hadn't heard before, it moved things forward because there had never been a structure for "the Voice", but the government had now committed to a process that would come up with one.