So what would we recognise?
The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution would acknowledge the longer span of history in our country, which extends back tens of thousands of years through the oldest living cultures on the planet. It would recognise what is the truth of our history. That achievement can inspire every Australian today and it’s the rightful opening chapter of our nation’s shared story.
The Expert Panel recommended this recognition would simply note that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were the first to live here. It would also celebrate the unique and continuing first cultures, languages, connections to country and heritage that are central to Australia’s distinct national identity in the world. And it would keep the Commonwealth’s current ability to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while making it clearer that this power must not be used to discriminate or harm.
Such a law-making power is needed to help fix the shocking disadvantage that is the historic legacy of long-term discrimination and exclusion, including the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die 17 years earlier on average than other Australians. This law-making power is also used to support native title agreements, and to make heritage protection laws that safeguard Australia’s unique Indigenous heritage for future generations.