Our role has a very specific focus. It is to raise awareness across the Australian community of the need to fix the Constitution.
The only way this change can happen is through a referendum.
More than 300,000 Australians from all walks of life have already declared their support for constitutional recognition.
RECOGNISE also has a goal of leaving a legacy of campaigning experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This will build skills and capacity for ongoing campaigning work in Indigenous Affairs and social justice.
RECOGNISE’s role is separate to the Referendum Council, whose job it is to advise the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on progress and next steps towards a successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
RECOGNISE does not design the model nor set the date for the referendum – that decision is in the hands of the Government and the Parliament.
RECOGNISE was established in 2012 after the Expert Panel (consisting of a majority of Indigenous members) called for the establishment of a “properly resourced public education and awareness program“.
This mirrored a similar call by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1995 for “a major public awareness program to create an environment for change and understanding of Indigenous Constitutional perspectives“.
RECOGNISE was established on the advice that early awareness is the best way to ensure a great change doesn’t fall victim to the “don’t know, vote no” scare campaigns that have defeated so many referendums in the past.
Only 8 out of 44 referendums have succeeded and some of the worst results occurred when there has been no attempt to raise public awareness of the need for a change. That’s why RECOGNISE has driven a strong national awareness campaign for the past five years. Over this time:
i. Awareness of the issue has almost doubled;
ii. Nearly 300,000 Australians have signed up to support a referendum and support has held steady;
iii. More than 77% of the general community support a change as does 87% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and
iv. The Journey to Recognition has travelled more than 39,000kms across the country, engaging with 273 communities through 365 events attended by 27,240 people.
v. More than 180 organisations have joined our partner network and RECOGNISE is connected to over 500 organisations that have signed Reconciliation Action Plans with our parent organisation, Reconciliation Australia.
vi. We have launched a national Field campaign with Field leaders, organisers and volunteers in every state and territory.
There are many other organisations campaigning on wider issues of importance to the First Australians. Many of these organisations also bring a specific focus to their work. It is the job of RECOGNISE to provide the focus and work towards constitutional change, to build supporters across the country and to keep our support base aware of progress on the campaign.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders will continue to work hard to protect the interests, survival and wellbeing of their communities, and many other Australians support this crucial work. As they navigate other challenges, it is compelling that our many campaign partners, leaders and community people also find time and energy to offer strong support and leadership in the movement towards constitutional change.