We need to fix the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from Australia’s Constitution.
And we need to remove discrimination – like the section of our Constitution that says people can be banned from voting based on race.
An Expert Panel – which included Indigenous and community leaders, constitutional experts and parliamentarians – consulted extensively across the nation and reported to the Prime Minister in January 2012.
It recommended that Australians should vote in a referendum to:
- Remove Section 25 – which says the States can ban people from voting based on their race;
- Remove section 51(xxvi) – which can be used to pass laws that discriminate against people based on their race;
- Insert a new section 51A – 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 peoples;
- Insert a new section 116A, banning racial discrimination by government; and
- Insert a new section 127A, recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were this country’s first tongues, while confirming that English is Australia’s national language.
The Parliament has now appointed a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to finalise the words that would form the amendment to the Constitution. It will be chaired by the two Indigenous members of the Commonwealth Parliament, with Mr Ken Wyatt MP as the Chair and Senator Nova Peris as the Deputy Chair.
The Government has also promised to establish a special committee including individuals outside the Parliament to progress constitutional recognition. This committee will also include representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Government also announced in December 2013 that the draft wording will be finalised by the end of 2014.