Indigenous leaders call for constitutional change

Indigenous leaders call for constitutional change

Several Aboriginal leaders will meet Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin today to ask her to consider changing the Australian constitution.

Ms Macklin is due to arrive at the Garma Festival in eastern Arnhem Land this morning.

Prominent Indigenous people like Noel Pearson, Marcia Langton and Galarrwuy Yunupingu say it is time Indigenous people were recognised in the nation’s supreme law.

They want both sides of politics to commit to changing the constitution.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said he would support an amendment to the constitution’s preamble, which would recognise the place of Indigenous people in Australian life.

But Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not spoken on the issue since taking office.

Meanwhile, Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon has defended the Federal Government’s Indigenous affairs record.

Mr Pearson and Professor Langton say both major political parties have ignored Indigenous people during the election campaign.

Mr Snowdon, the member for Lingiari, says the Government has made several Indigenous policy announcements, but the media has not taken any notice.

“We’ve made a series of announcements over the last weeks, they pick up local media but they’re of no great significance to the national media because they’re focussing on other stories,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the national media want to concentrate – it appears – on the negative.

“Well we’ve got some really good stories to tell here in the Northern Territory and elsewhere across Australia.”

Also at the festival was head of the Yothu Yindi Foundation, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who announced plans to re-build the Dhulpuma college at Gulkula near the community of Yirrkala.

Mr Yunupingu wants government support for the project, but Mr Snowdon says the Government has already announced funding for three Indigenous boarding schools in the territory.

“Into the future we could get additional ones and there may even be an additional one here, but at the moment we’ve got to deal with what we’ve got,” he said.

Mr Snowdon says Indigenous training centres are a good idea and said the Government may be able to fund the project in the future, but for now it is not a government policy.

He was at the Garma Festival yesterday and said that Indigenous affairs were important to his Government, but he would not say if there would be a major Indigenous policy announcement before the next election.



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