Constitution Recognition – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

Congress Media Releases 19 January 2012

Constitutional Change for Equality for All Australians

Congress says Australians who support equality and fairness in our Constitution should support recommendations to change the nation’s founding document.

“The message from this report is clear, it’s time to eliminate racism from the Australian constitution and to prohibit racial discrimination,” said Congress Co-Chair, Jody Broun.

“If taken to Referendum and passed, these reforms will establish the Constitution as a pillar against racism.

“This report is the culmination of months of public consultations and over 3,000 submissions with careful consideration of the best way to achieve successful and meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“It is imperative that Australians make an informed decision when voting in any future Referendum on this issue. Congress encourages everyone to read the comprehensive report and join us in supporting the recommendations.

“We call on our political leaders to be brave in taking the country forward on this issue,” she said

Congress Co-Chair Les Malezer said Constitutional recognition was one of many long term goals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Although these reforms are substantive, Congress acknowledges that they do not address calls for a treaty or greater protection of the rights.

“A Referendum will not achieve those aspirations, so we are recommending simple, logical and just changes that can be supported by a majority of Australians.

“They will not diminish or extinguish the campaign for self-determination to be the standard to be met by all governments.

“Along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ sovereignty, these issues must be dealt with separately.

“Our Members and Delegates have already decided Constitutional Reform is among the top Congress priorities.Congress Members want us to have a major role in promoting Constitutional reform, in consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in educating the whole community on the issues involved. We have remained committed to their views during this process,” he said.

Congress encourages everyone to read the full report, understand the issues and political challenges, and then add their own voice to achieve Constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Peoples.

A whole range of documents including the final report can be found on the You Me Unity site.

Congress Issues: Sovereignty and Treaty

The proposed Referendum will not adversely affect any efforts being made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for a Treaty with the Government.

The Panel’s report also says that the recommendations for Constitutional reform would not adversely affect any future legal claim of sovereignty.

Check out more about these issues here.

Plain English Guide to Panel’s Recommendations

The Panel recommends that:
• section 25 is removed
• section 51(xxvi) is removed
• a new section 51A is adopted to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to preserve the Australian Government’s ability to pass laws for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
• a new section 116A is adopted, prohibiting racial discrimination
• a new section 127A is adopted, recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages while
confirming that English is Australia’s national language
• the Government considers carefully the Panel’s advice on how to achieve a successful referendum.

To read more from the plain English guide, click here