Main content area

Bipartisan report calls for recognition of Indigenous Australians in constitution

Bipartisan report calls for recognition of Indigenous Australians in constitution

fughtopia:

image

A clause mentioning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should be inserted into Australia’s founding document and another that discriminates on the basis of race removed, a parliamentary report will recommend.

The cross-party parliamentary committee examining different models for a future referendum on constitutional reform will hand down its report on Thursday morning. It will be tabled by Australia’s first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt.

Guardian Australia understands the committee was unanimous in pushing for the the inclusion of a new clause recognising Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

Calls by some community leaders like Noel Pearson that recognition be “symbolic” in the form of a declaration, have been comprehensively rejected by the committee. However, the recommendations do not preclude symbolic gestures from occurring concurrently, nor do they prevent more contentious measures like Indigenous sovereignty and the creation of a treaty.

The report will recommend that section 25 of the constitution, which allows for state laws disqualifying people of a particular race from voting at state elections to be made, be repealed.

The report is less equivocal on the question of how to deal with the more complicated race powers clauses contained in the founding document. It gives options for section 51(xxvi) be repealed or amended, and urges new clauses that prohibit racial discrimination but still acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ link to the land be considered.

The options and recommendations will be discussed with Indigenous leaders at the July 6th constitutional summit. Both the prime minister, Tony Abbott, and the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, will attend the event.

The report handed down on Thursday also recommends extensive nationwide consultations in the lead-up to the referendum, slated for 2017 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Indigenous people being counted in the census.

But it wants a convention of Indigenous people to be held first, “with a certain number of those delegates then selected to participate in the national convention”.

The committee has recommended a full day of parliament be devoted to debating the referendum, so members and senators get to air their views and concerns.

The debate would proceed “with a view to achieving near-unanimous support for, and build momentum towards, a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples”, the report said.

Surveys undertaken by advocacy group Recognise consistently show strong support for Indigenous recognition among the wider community, as well as with first peoples themselves.