Date: 
Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, has endorsed constitutional reform as part of a new agenda  recognising rights, responsibilities and relationships in his 2013 Social Justice and Native Title Report, tabled today in Federal Parliament.

“Reform of the Australian constitution could re-set the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians and signal to the world that this nation has come to terms with its past,” Commissioner Gooda said.

The Australian Human Rights Commission President, Gillian Triggs, said the Commission also supports constitutional reform to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The 2013 Social Justice and Native Title Report marks 20 years of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner role.

“Looking back over the past 20 years, we have seen improvements in some areas. We are on the right track in working towards health equality, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and constitutional reform.

"Sadly, there is little measureable progress in other areas, like involvement with the criminal justice system,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“We simply cannot be satisfied with what’s been done to date because our life chances continually fail to equal those of the rest of the Australian population.

“Sustainable and long term improvements in education, health and life expectancy can be achieved when rights and responsibilities stand side by side, and when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples meaningfully participate in decisions that affect us.

“We need a new narrative. We need to recognise that a human rights-based approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues is essential to sustainable improvements in our communities and families.

“Rather than focus exclusively on our demand for rights, I want us to also think about our responsibilities and the opportunities that we can grasp. When we do this, we can reframe self-determination not only as a right but also as a call to our people to take responsibility and control over our internal and local affairs.”

Commissioner Gooda said the relationship between government and Indigenous communities should be built on mutual trust and respect, “where our voices are heard, where we are treated as equals with government and where we are allowed to say both yes and no.”

The 2013 Social Justice and Native Title Report articulates the Social Justice Commissioner’s agenda for change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, critiques approaches to alcohol management and puts forward the business case for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human rights.

The report will be launched on Friday 13 December 2013 at 10am at KPMG, Level 15, 10 Shelley St, Sydney.