Date: 
Friday 9 July 2010

 

logos of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Australian Human Rights Commission

 

Constitutional reform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is the next major step towards reconciliation and full recognition of Indigenous rights, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, and Co-Chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Sam Jeffries and Dr Kerry Arabena, said today, on National Constitution Day.

Commissioner Gooda, Mr Jeffries and Dr Arabena used 9 July, National Constitution Day and also a national day of celebration of Indigenous people and culture, to call for an election commitment to Constitutional reform from the major political parties and independents.
 
“Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have been calling for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first Australians in the Australian Constitution in recent years,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“Now is the time to take up this challenge and work together as a nation to build the support needed to make this a reality.

“The building blocks are already there with the Queensland and Victorian Parliaments already having changed their respective State Constitutional preambles to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Gooda said.

“The National Apology in 2008 was the crest of a new wave of commitment towards reconciliation in Australia – we owe it to ourselves as a nation to ride this wave further to give Indigenous Australians the Constitutional recognition we deserve.”

Commissioner Gooda said Constitutional recognition was fundamental to achieving true equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. He said the lack of protection for Indigenous peoples in the Constitution has contributed to their unfair treatment in the laws and policies of the nation.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples called for bipartisan support. 
 
“Successful constitutional change is historically rare and will be impossible without widespread public and political support. Political parties need to make their position clear before the election,” said Dr Arabena.

“As we celebrate the achievements of unsung Indigenous heroes this week, we offer Australians the chance to acknowledge our status.
 
“To create a meaningful and lasting partnership, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders must be part of the Constitution - the document that defines the nation’s soul. 

Mr Jeffries said a huge amount of groundwork had already been laid.
 
“I have confidence that there is goodwill in the community to see this type of practical reconciliation accomplished. 

“The Congress sees reform as a necessity to underpin a new relationship with all Australians. This is fundamental to build a just and modern Australia,” Mr Jeffries said.

Commissioner Gooda, Dr Arabena and Mr Jeffries said once support had been galvanised and all the major parties had committed to Constitutional reform, all the parties could come to the table to discuss the precise content of the reforms.
 
Media contact: 

For Mick Gooda - Louise McDermott (02) 9284 951 or 0419 258 597

For Dr Arabena and Sam Jeffries – Aaron Ross 0419 434 498