Words by: Mandy Tu
Liberal MP Ken Wyatt has called for the amendation of the Constitution, bringing to attention the long debated lack of mention given to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the nation’s founding document.
Mr Wyatt’s report – supported by the Coalition, Labor and the Greens – which will hopefully lead to a referendum on Indigenous recognition in the Constitution – is underway. This report is joint-parliamentary, building from years of consultations across the country, and follows on other comprehensive examinations of a referendum case.
It will prove to be referential in further discussions that the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader will have with selected Indigenous representatives in Sydney early next month.
Mr Wyatt and his committee recommends repealing Section 25 and 51 (xxvi) of the constitutional document, wherein the former allows the states to disqualify people from voting on the basis of race, and the latter gives parliament the power to construct special Commonwealth laws for people “of any race”.
The draft report further recommends that a referendum should consider including a provision that recognizes that Australia was originally occupied by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as acknowledge the connection of the Indigenous people to their lands and waterways, and respect the continuing Indigenous cultures, language, and heritage.
Mr Wyatt and his committee are in favour of moving it to a vote, and declares that this is an issue for the nation.
“This is not about singling out Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or affording them extra rights above all other Australians,” Mr Wyatt said.
“This is owned and must be owned by all Australians, black and white, urban and regional, rich and poor… This is about all of us as a nation, about all of us as Australians.
“This is about correcting the contextual silence that is so currently deafening in the Constitution.”