The constitution of Australia currently contains shameful provisions that allow the government to make racially discriminatory laws and to exclude people from voting based on their ethnic background. It also contains no specific recognition of Aboriginal Australians as the first inhabitants of our land.
This is currently being reviewed in the lead up to a referendum being held on the issue. Submissions on the matter closed last week and I’d put in a letter outlining the technical details of what I felt needed to be done to properly fix the problems with our constitution.
However after attending a forum on the matter I took the unusual step of putting in a second submission on the issue, spelling out the importance of an honest acknowledgement of the past and genuine changes to impact the future – changes to prohibit discriminatory acts like the Northern Territory intervention and to provide just compensation for the historical loss of Aboriginal land.
This submission is below:
Please accept this, my second submission to the Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
After attending the forum at Redfern Community Centre on Wednesday 28th September, I feel that there are a number of issues I did not make clear in my earlier submission.
I thoroughly support the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Preamble to the Constitution but have a number of concerns which I did not express in my first submission which was more technically based on Articles within the Constitution.
Firstly, there must be truth in history and a Preamble that does not recognise the violent nature of First Settlement for the original inhabitants of this land is worthless. The true nature of what is seen by many Aboriginal Australians as an “invasion”, the adoption of the policy of Terra Nullius and the subsequent attempts to eradicate Aboriginal people and their culture, such as the Stolen Generations, must be acknowledged. Without such an acknowledgement any Preamble would be hypocritical. There can be no true reconciliation with Aboriginal people unless we acknowledge why we need to be reconciled.
Secondly, as long as the Government pursues policies such as the Northern Territory Intervention, which suspended the Racial Discrimination Act, there can be no true justice for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people must be allowed to have a say in their own communities and the paternalistic intervention in the Northern Territory has removed the control of Aboriginal affairs from Aboriginal people. This must be rectified and Government support given to Aboriginal controlled organisations and programmes which are designed to address issues that have arisen from the gross injustices caused by white settlement.
Thirdly, there must be a mechanism put in place to allow for the making of Treaty with Aboriginal Peoples and the payment of just compensation for the years of dispossession they have experienced.
Finally, without these measures being taken any mention in the Preamble will be nothing more than hypocritical tokenism and will be yet another disappointment for Aboriginal people who have seen so many promises by successive governments come to nothing.
I encourage the panel to contemplate deeply the disenfranchisement, the disassociation and the great despair felt by many Aboriginal people and their cynicism at government measures that infantilise them and only offer weasel words without bringing true justice and equality. I hope that this will be a chance to rectify the failures of the past and bring hope and justice to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Thank you for allowing me to add these words to my original submission
Thousands of submissions from other concerned Australians can be viewed at http://www.youmeunity.org.au/have-your-say/submissions.