Unanimous support key to Indigenous recognition
“It can serve as a vehicle to increase and improve our resilience, self-worth, relationship with the broader Australian community and relationship with governments. Importantly, this recognition will be of great benefit to the Australian nation as a whole in coming to terms with our past in such a positive manner”
Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has urged cross party support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill 2012, due to be considered in Parliament on Wednesday 13 February.
It is hoped the Bill will pass without opposition on what is also a day of great significance – the 5th anniversary of the national apology to members of the Stolen Generations.
Commissioner Gooda said “the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2012 would be an important step towards the main goal of constitutional reform. It should also serve as a springboard for further action to prepare the nation for a referendum.”
Commissioner Gooda believes unanimous support for the Act would be a demonstration of goodwill and commitment from all parties to furthering progress towards a referendum to reform the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unanimous bipartisan support is particularly critical given the bill includes a sunset clause of two years at the end of which time this recognition would lapse.
“The great potential of constitutional recognition should not be underestimated. It can serve as a vehicle to increase and improve our resilience, self-worth, relationship with the broader Australian community and relationship with governments. Importantly, this recognition will be of great benefit to the Australian nation as a whole in coming to terms with our past in such a positive manner,” said Commissioner Gooda.
However, constitutional reform must go beyond the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and address provisions of the Constitution which permit, enable or anticipate racial discrimination, said the Commissioner.
“This is not a conversation that is restricted to the political domain. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, the general public, civil society and business groups all have a crucial role to play in building momentum towards a referendum,” said Commissioner Gooda.
The Social Justice Commissioner has also called on Australians to acknowledge the anniversary and the significance of the apology to the stolen generations 5 years ago.
The apology on February 13 2008 was a recommendation by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s landmark 1997 Bringing Them Home report.
An important step along the journey of reconciliation, the apology was an acknowledgment of the human rights breaches against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families.