A meeting of more than 100 Indigenous representatives has passed a motion calling for an official constitutional convention to be held at Uluru in six months, before a final model for recognising Indigenous people in the founding document is settled.
The motion was raised at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (AIATSIS) National Native Title Conference in Port Douglas.
Hundreds of native title holders, traditional owners and other Indigenous representatives attended the conference and endorsed the idea of an official convention to settle on a final proposal for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The convention would bring together a range of delegates representing different communities and ideas for change.
The Port Douglas motion has put pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten ahead of a key meeting with a group of selected Indigenous representatives in Sydney at the beginning of next month.
When Mr Abbott announced the meeting, he said it would be a unifying moment and “an important part of this journey”.
But when Cairns-based Yalanji man and Aboriginal activist Terry O’Shane put forward the motion to last night’s conference, he warned there needed to be a significant additional period of consultation before a final model is settled.
“We have not had an adequate opportunity to hear about and discuss the models of constitutional recognition that are being considered,” the motion said.
“There must not be a model adopted without widespread Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander input.”
The motion also took aim at the joint parliamentary committee — which is headed by two Indigenous members of parliament, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt and Labor Senator Nova Peris.
The committee is preparing to hand down a report with recommendations for the best way to proceed towards a referendum.
“The committee has not consulted widely with our people,” the motion said.
“Most of us do not know the details of the different models for constitutional recognition that are on the table.
“The committee’s views do not represent ours.”
It goes on to suggest a path forward, including the constitutional convention at Uluru.
Mr O’Shane said in the lead-up to the convention there should be conferences at 10 key locations around the country, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can put forward proposals for change.
Cape York Indigenous leader Noel Pearson said there was widespread support for the idea of fresh community-driven consultations.
“There was a very strong view expressed at the Port Douglas conference that there needs to be a series of conventions of Indigenous people all over the country,” he said.
“We need to look at all of the models and ideas that have been proposed.
“The government should not foreclose on any option until we run a series of Indigenous conferences.”
Model must be settled by the end of the year: campaign
Taxpayer-funded campaign Recognise has actively promoted the need for constitutional change and organised events around Australia to generate momentum.
One of these, the Journey to Recognition relay, has seen representatives travel 32,000 kilometres across the nation so far to speak to different communities about the referendum process.
Joint-director of the Recognise campaign, Tanya Hosch, endorsed a similar timeframe of about six months for consultations in a recent speech.
“In this era, we would want the model out and agreed before the end of this year,” she said.
“We need that time between model agreement and May 2017 to put the nitpickers and the naysayers firmly back in their armchairs.
“We have to grasp this opportunity.
“We have to make it count.”