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Why recognition

It's up to us

Australia's Constitution was written more than a century ago. By then, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had lived here for more than 50,000 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 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.

This is leftover from a period of our history that is long gone. Australians must ensure we don't hand-over a Constitution that allows for racial discrimination to our children.

The only way to fix the Constitution is to have a referendum - a national vote.

It's up to us to make this change through a vote of the people.

What about a treaty?

Working towards constitutional recognition doesn't stop us working for a treaty - repeated legal advice makes that clear. They are separate processes. Treaties require negotiated agreements with Government and constitutional change requires a vote of the people at a referendum.

There are many examples of treaties and agreements that currently exist in Australia.

Recognition and dealing with racial discrimination in our Constitution can only be achieved through a referendum. Suggestions that there are other ways to take racism out of the Constitution without a referendum are inaccurate.

Isn't it unfair or racist to only recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples when other groups are not mentioned?

In fact, all Australians are acknowledged in the Constitution as "the people of the Commonwealth". By the Constitution remaining silent on Australia's long and impressive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history before 1901, our founding document implies the first chapter of our national story either didn't happen or isn't important. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived in this land for tens of thousands of years.

Recognition would acknowledge that first chapter of our shared story.

This reform is focused on recognising the First Peoples of this nation for their unique place in our history and is not about race.

Aren't these changes unequal and racist because they favour one race?

As it is currently written, our Constitution actually allows for racial discrimination against any race. The movement for constitutional recognition is about fixing that.

We should all have equal rights. It's important to understand that we don't all have equal rights at the moment. Right now, our Constitution allows for people to be treated unequally based on race. For example, it still has a section (Section 25) that says that people can be banned from voting based on race. So supporting constitutional recognition means supporting equal rights.

Which countries already recognise First Nation peoples?

In a submission to the Expert Panel, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted that 'comparable countries, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America, with the same British colonial history, have recognised their Indigenous populations in law', and that 'Australia has been left behind on the recognition of its Indigenous peoples in law'.

Along with New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America, Indigenous peoples and groups are also recognised in the constitutions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, South Africa, the Philippines, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia.


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