Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has urged Australians to embrace the nation’s Indigenous history through constitutional recognition during a speech at the Woodford Folk Festival, north of Brisbane.
The audience of more than 600 people included former prime minister Bob Hawke, who joined in a standing ovation for the Cape York community leader.
Mr Pearson said it would be a huge challenge to win the support for Indigenous constitutional recognition through a referendum.
“The task of constitutional recognition in Australia is to get a majority of Australians in a majority of the states to put their hands up,” he told the crowd.
It should be the duty, and it should be the privilege, of all Australians to own this heritage.Noel Pearson
Mr Pearson was a member of an expert panel that recommended the constitution be altered to remove racist sections, but in September he told the ABC that position would not win enough voter support.
He told the Woodford audience that “it’s not enough to get 51 per cent of Australians to out their hands up, you’ve actually got to get states like Western Australia, Tasmania and indeed our own state of Queensland”.
“We can’t just scrape in with 51 per cent, we’ve got to have a super majority,” he said.
He said one of the major referendums that failed in Australia had 64 per cent in favour, but had failed because it had not had a majority of states in favour and called the current campaign “a tight window of constitutional opportunity”.
“There is still a lack of consensus on the best model for change,” he said.
Mr Pearson proposed a new representative body for empowering Indigenous Australians be recognised in the Constitution.
Today he called for all Australians to embrace the Indigenous heritage of their country.
“It should be the duty, and it should be the privilege, of all Australians to own this heritage,” he said.
“In order for us to do that, we must formalise that recognition in our constitutional arrangements.”