Australians have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help shape the future of the nation by participating in public consultations on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, the Australian Human Rights Commission said today.
Commission President Catherine Branson QC said the release of the public discussion paper on Indigenous Constitutional recognition should provide the detail needed for Australians to form considered positions on this critical issue.
“Both major parties and the Independents have committed to pursuing constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Ms Branson said.
“There’s a mood for change and a growing feeling that the Constitution needs to be brought up to date to reflect the reality of Australia in the 21st century.”
Ms Branson said recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s constitution could not only mark the beginning of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but would also provide a solid foundation for future discussions about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participate in the life of the Australian nation.
“It is important that Australians realise that constitutional recognition is not only about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but is about the nation as a whole,” she said.
“Constitutional recognition can only improve the trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia and for that reason alone it has the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
She said experts such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists agreed that constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples could have a direct impact on quality of life by improving the self-esteem and social and emotional well-being of Indigenous Australians, reinforcing pride and valuing Indigenous culture and history.
“It’s time for a genuine national conversation on the best option for constitutional recognition that will be supported by the majority but is also meaningful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Branson said.
“The Commission encourages people to participate in this national conversation by reading the discussion paper, attending a consultation meeting, by writing a letter or email or lodging a written submission with the Expert Panel on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.”
The discussion paper, resources and a schedule of public consultations can be accessed online at www.youmeunity.org.au Also go to the www.humanrights.gov.au/constitution/ to access Commission resources including Frequently Asked Questions and Fact Sheets.
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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597