Australian Government – Constitutional recognition

Media Releases
Towards Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians
Date: 19/01/2012

Joint Media Release with:

The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister

The Australian Government today received the expert panel’s report on the recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution.

Over the past year, the panel of Indigenous and community leaders, constitutional law experts and parliamentary members have led wide-ranging national public consultations to develop options to recognise the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

The panel talked to more than 4,600 people, in more than 250 meetings in 84 locations across the country and received more than 3,500 submissions.

They also sought extensive advice from Indigenous leaders and constitutional experts and gathered data through research and surveys.

The Government will now carefully consider the panel’s recommendations before determining the best way forward.

The Australian Constitution is the foundation document for our laws and our government, but it is silent on the special place of our first Australians.

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians is a significant step towards building a nation based on strong relations and mutual respect, which recognises the unique and special place of our first peoples.

The Government thanks the panel, including co-chairs Mark Leibler and Professor Patrick Dodson for their dedication and tireless work over the past year. They have helped build a strong foundation for change.

We also thank the Australian Human Rights Commission, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Reconciliation Australia, and the many people who lodged submissions, participated in consultations or helped the panel with their research.

The Government does not underestimate the challenge of achieving nation-wide consensus. Change will not happen without support from across the political spectrum and the support of the majority of Australians.

The National Apology to Indigenous Australians helped build a bridge of respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It helped generate the trust so we could work together to tackle Indigenous disadvantage.

The recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution is another step in that journey, a step that is critical in our efforts to close the gap.

The panel’s report can be found at http://www.youmeunity.org.au. We encourage all Australians to visit the site to learn more and to register their support for Indigenous constitutional recognition.