Parish of Belmont, Anglican Church Newcastle, NSW Australia

Constitutional Changes

Naidoc2004There has been since 2011, a call for a change in the Constitution to recognise the first custodians of Australia. The shock jocks argue that it is in some sense racist to recognise any cultural group. All the major and most of the minor political parties have agreed to support this call. At some stage in the relatively near future we expect to see the referendum before the people of Australia.

This month (September 2014) representatives of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Uniting Churches agreed to work towards such a change.

So we ask ourselves, what is the issue. In 1967 we gave citizenship to the Aboriginal people. This was a major step forward. Of course until 1788 they had it, and in reality we could not take it way. In reality the history of European Settlement for the Aboriginal People has not been all that good. Some Aboriginal Communities were wiped out, and for the remaining communities there has been a sense of invisibility.

Under Australian Law we now recognise that Australia was inhabited before 1788 and it was not ‘Terra Nullius‘ (meaning nobody’s land). To recognise this constitutionally is to guard against an ongoing invisibility.

Whilst we can not change the past, we can change the future. Aboriginal Culture is the oldest continuing human culture on the planet. The best future lies in working together for better outcomes.

 

Constitutional ReformClick on the picture here to open the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Paper on proposed changes.

When the Australian Constitution was being drafted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were excluded from the discussions concerning the creation of a new nation to be situated on their ancestral lands and territories. The Australian Constitution also expressly discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Australian Constitution did not – and still does not – make adequate provision for Australia’s first peoples.