How Australia should recognise its Aboriginal people in the Constitution

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about the lack of recognition in the body of the

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about the lack of recognition in the body of the Australian Constitution, but a survey of hundreds of Aboriginal people around Australia has revealed significant diversity in the views on recognition.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has found a majority of the responses it has received to the survey so far favour a treaty as a first priority above changes to the Constitution.

The strong support for a treaty would represent a settlement between First Nations and the Government that is in line with treaties in New Zealand and Canada according to Congress co-chair Jackie Huggins.

“We won’t stand back in terms of letting the Government know that this is a real issue for our people and they are saying to us loud and clear that they would want a treaty,” Dr Huggins told the ABC.

When discussion on the topic was held in 2012, an expert panel of indigenous leaders, politicians and legal minds recommended recognition should take place in the body of the Constitution rather than by inserting a new preamble, and the new section would recognise that “the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

There was also a recommendation to remove racist sections of the Constitution, acknowledge the continuing relationship of indigenous people with their traditional lands and waters, and a proposal to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as the original Australian languages.

Dr Huggins says Aboriginal policy is “in crisis” and “things are not on track” with the referendum, which has caused a lot of confusion.

The Federal Government established a Referendum Council in December 2015, which the then prime minister Tony Abbott said would “advise on progress and next steps towards a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution”.

The Australian Constitution can only be changed by a referendum.

When the Australian Constitution was being drafted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were excluded from the discussions about the creation of a new nation. This and sections of discrimination within the body of the Constitution have led to calls from Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander peoples to have their rights recognised and acknowledged by the Australian Government and the Australian people.

Questions in the recent survey of indigenous people included whether members supported a Statement of Acknowledgement in the Constitution; whether the Commonwealth should have the power to make laws for Aboriginal people; whether Congress should support a ban on racial discrimination; and whether the referendum should be held on May 27, 2017 (the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that stands as a critical milestone in the battle to fix Australia’s lack of recognition of its indigenous people).

Do you have an opinion on this issue? What should Australia do to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution?

  1. Ray  

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all just plain old Australians and not use divisive terms.

    • facebook_elda.quinton  

      Couldn’t agree more Ray. The same thought went through my mind.

    • 5thGen Australian.  

      Totally…many ‘Aboriginals’ are these days mixed race. Political correctness has muddied the facts. If those who are pure were the opinion makers it would be interesting.

    • Completely agree – we are all Australians – no need for racial discrimination (it thought it was illegal anyway!)

  2. Paul  

    Exactly Ray, all the rhetoric that is flying around about this issue only divides Australia.

  3. Carol  

    As they seem so fond of letting our Flag be stomped, & trodden on into the ground, spitting upon it, & then setting fire to it, WHY should they be recognised in our Constitution?
    None of the ‘elders’ stop this from happening.

    They forget some of their ancestors’ fought, & died under that Flag.

    The white federal public servants who organise their multitudinous CENTRELINK payments, work under that Flag.

    The ADF, Police, & many others’ serve under our Flag, to keep Australia safe for indigenous, & us.

    Did they build the Cities’ in which we, & they, live, the roads, trains, bridges, airports, shipping docks, suburban houses, dams, sewerage, flood mitigation?

    NO! They sure didn’t.

    Yet they want recognition in our Constitution!

    If this Country was left to them, they’d still be foraging for ‘bush food’, not the ‘niceties’ they spend their ‘dole’ on these days.

    • Ian Rennie  

      Carol, very well put, who could disagree with that.

  4. John  

    As long as people wish to be treated different – they will be treated different! Let us all be Australians – get rid of the special divisions and compensations that are across all sectors of society. No change to the Constitution required.

  5. Marcus  

    I agree with all the comments above… when aboriginal people decide to get up off their collective backsides and start taking responsibility for their own actions and their own futures it will be better and cheaper for all of us… The constitution doesn’t need changing… they are already well served under our existing constitution…. it is the attitude of Aboriginal people that needs changing… NOT the constitution.

    • Wiso  

      And so say all of us !!! I agree Marcus. And all this rubbish about reconciliation !! As long as they are pushing to be recognised as different there will never be reconciliation. They are Australians just like the rest of us so we don’t need any changes to the constitution. They may have been here first but they didn’t own anything because Australia wasn’t a sovereignty so the land didn’t belong to anybody. We owe them nothing except to treat them like any other Australian, and that includes earning your keep.

  6. Anaru Ngamotu  

    depends on what you mean by nessessaties Carol…..having a house a car,a tv,computor,all the luxuries of life you can afford to spend up on….REALLY.I like the way you put OUR constitution you made it plain & clear you dont want to acknowlege the indigenous people of your country….your landlords….yep yous built the cities,high rise buildings,bridges,roads,dams schools….you name it yous built it…..they had no reason for any of that…those were simply built to cater for the likes of yous & your life style.but remember this carol,it was there land yous built was never an issue with them, until your ancestors introduced it to them….something they never knew the value of… you sit in your nice air conditioned home watch your 50inch tv….pull out something from your fridge when you feel like a snack….jump in your pool when you wish to impress your friends with all the luxuries of life your surrounded with….you just got hope that one day you wont have to revert to foraging for food in the bush…..indigenous people can go without your luxuries….CAN YOU CAROL..

    • Susan Gabriel.  

      Well said.

      • Ron Edwards  

        I recommend ALL should read ” WADJELAS -The memoirs of a 1950’s Patrol Officer” by Adrian Day. Published by Hesperian Press. Keep an open mind people………….
        I wish the book was required reading in all Aussie schools.

    • Really Anaru – It is you that needs a reality check. Racial discrimination is illegal. So just get on with being an Australian like the rest of us! Work for what you need to survive like the rest of us!

    • Henry  

      Our Landlords? What impunity! Landlords are Investors who create housing accommodation. What have the indigenous people achieved? – Nothing but 200 years of racial discrimination and division and they certainly have not accommodated to the progressive changes of the evolution of societies in the world. Indigenous people think they have been hard done by the stolen generation? Go and read up Europe’s ancient and modern history and you may just realise that all your bemoaning is just a tiny sand pebble compared to the horrific historical suffering of Europeans, the people that you resent, the people that you dream of being their Landlord! Indigenous people have never been a welcoming society, not even to your own kind!

    • Carol  

      Anaru, if you wish to take issue with what I wrote, firstly learn how to SPELL, & use correct GRAMMAR! Get a friend to help, as it makes what you say irrelevant, & makes you look silly.

      You missed my point TOTALLY! How surprising!

      The word I used was ‘NICETIES’. Do you know what that means? I didn’t use ‘necessities’….correct spelling, anywhere. Reading comprehension?

      How about what dole is spent on by your fellow indigenous ……alcohol, ciggies, drugs, paint spray cans for sniffing, Vegemite for ‘home brew’? These are your mob’s ‘niceties’.
      Look at the trouble being caused in Mt Isa. An 11yo aboriginal youth setting fires.

      One time, I toured a particular aboriginal settlement, one of many I had to. What the persons’ living there would do is drive a brand new 4WD out into the scrub, & when it ran out of petrol &/or oil, just left it there.
      Who paid for it, & its’ recovery? The White Australian Tax Payers’, that’s who.
      A north Qld township I went through, was told by residents that an aboriginal gets a house in EIGHT weeks; a white man has to wait 3 YEARS, reverse racism, at its’ best!
      In NW WA towns, there’s piles of beer cans, as high as a monument. In one town, saw aboriginal women in local park, all drunk, lolling about, with several empty sherry FLAGONS’ beside them. This is the constant scene people see regarding the so-called ‘land owners’. When are they going to STOP? Never!

      I don’t have a house, swimming pool, 50″ tv. I’ve a 38 yo car. I don’t have a computer, or aircon.
      You assumptions are so very wrong.

      Oh, BTW, I’ve lived ‘up scrub’, so well aware how to forage for ‘bush tucker’.
      And NO, I wouldn’t miss any of my goods, which aren’t luxury items, but are of good use.
      Again, you’ve assumed incorrectly.

      Anaru, your ancestors’ did NOT draw-up the Australian Constitution. My Anglo-Saxon ancestors’ did.

      Notice you didn’t reply re: flag desecration; that speaks volumes!

      As others’ here have stated, when indigenous get off their a@@&$, work, wash & clean themselves instead of stinking, are respectful to others, don’t get around drunk, & obnoxious, don’t swear & assault other people, even their own, THEN, & ONLY then will the rest of this population take note.

      Shame there’s not more of you of the calibre of the late Sen Neville Bonner, or the current, marvellous Didjeridoo player, William Barton, who represents Australia overseas, & is one of the nicest persons’ I’ve been privileged to meet. His Mother was an Opera singer.

      So you, & your people have a long way to go.

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