Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has proposed changing the constitution to recognise a new representative body for empowering Indigenous Australians.
The chairman of the Cape York Partnership told the ABC’s Lateline program the new body would be involved in advising the parliamentary process about what laws and policies should apply to Indigenous people.
“We want to be guaranteed that in the future history is not repeated and we want to be able to have a say over the laws and policies that apply to us,” he said.
“We want a democratic involvement in the laws and policies that apply to us.
“We want to be in the tent, we want to be in the life of the nation, contributing to the process whereby these things come to affect our communities, our people and our futures.”
In the latest Quarterly Essay Mr Pearson dropped his support for an anti-racial discrimination clause in the constitution.
Our constitution can only be changed by a majority of voters in a majority of the states. It’s the hardest constitution in the world to change.Noel Pearson
Northern Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris has said she is concerned about this “more conservative” approach.
Mr Pearson had been a member of an expert panel that recommended the constitution be altered to remove racist sections, but he told Lateline his former position would not win enough voter support to change the constitution.
“There’s very clear opposition from constitutional conservatives about the idea of putting a rights provision in the constitution that would outlaw racial discrimination,” he said.
“Our constitution can only be changed by a majority of voters in a majority of the states. It’s the hardest constitution in the world to change.
“If you’re really serious about changing it, you’ve got to have the objective of getting 90 per cent of the country on board.
“And from an Aboriginal viewpoint, that means the most conservative end of Australia – political, rural, regional. They’re the mob that you’ve got to try and get on board the bus.”
Mr Pearson said the discussion should be centered on Aboriginal people having a say over the laws and policies that apply to them.
He said the body would be entirely different to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) which was abolished in 2005.
The proposal is still in its early stages and needs to go before the Federal Government.
Mr Pearson will present his Quarterly Essay, A Rightful Place, at the Sydney Opera House tonight.