We need to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people in the Australian Constitution, the nation’s rule- book.
We need to deal with the sections that allow for racial discrimination.
Constitutional recognition is about telling our country’s whole story and dealing with the racial discrimination in our highest legal document.
Australia’s Constitution was written more than a century ago. By then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had lived here for more than 40,000 years, maintaining the oldest living culture on the planet.
Yet the Constitution, Australia’s rule-book, doesn’t recognise this and still allows for racial discrimination.
It begins as if Australia’s national story only started with the arrival of the British. As Harold Ludwick, a Bulgun Warra man from Cape York, puts it: “If the Constitution was the birth certificate of Australia, we’re missing half the family”.
The Constitution also contains sections in it that allow for discrimination based on a person’s race. This can give Governments the power to make laws that apply only to a particular race. And it would allow people to be banned from voting based on race.
It’s 2016 and it’s hard to believe that there are still sections in our nation’s rule-book that allow for racial discrimination.
The only way to fix the Constitution is to have a referendum – a national vote.
In 1967, a referendum was held to ensure that the First Australians were counted equally as citizens under section 127 of the Constitution.
The 1967 Referendum was hugely successful, with more than 90 per cent of Australians voting ‘yes’ to delete two racially discriminatory references in the Constitution. But there’s more work to do.
The issue of recognising Indigenous people in the Constitution has been discussed and debated since the 1990s – for more than 20 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for this to be fixed for decades.
There have been two expert and extensive reviews of the issue and both these reviews said it’s time to get on with it.
Every Australian can rightly be proud that our country is home to the longest unbroken thread of human culture on the planet.
We can be part of this important moment in Australia’s history where we vote to take racism out of our Constitution and put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition in.
This will leave a legacy for the next generation. It’s the right thing to do.