Vote to be held on constitutional recognition of Aborigines

Vote to be held on constitutional recognition of Aborigines

AUSTRALIA is set to go to a referendum before the next election on the constitutional recognition of its first peoples.

Fierce lobbying by the rural independents has resurrected indigenous Australia as a priority for the new Labor government.

The independent from Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, said the government had promised a referendum on recognising indigenous people in the preamble of the constitution within three years.

He said indigenous people had been ”left behind for too long” and was adamant that Aboriginal people in urban centres would not be ignored.

”One of my great frustrations about this Parliament in regards to conversations about education and employment in regional indigenous issues is there’s almost this automatic drift to the Northern Territory or Cape York,” he said.

More than 50 per cent of the indigenous population lived between Sydney and Rockhampton, Mr Oakeshott said, and he made a pointed reference to the dominant role of Noel Pearson in the debate in indigenous issues. ”There is more than one view in indigenous Australia,” he said.

The NSW Labor MP Linda Burney welcomed a referendum and was not worried that most Australian referendums fail.

”It is not before time that we have this discussion within the community and I feel very confident it will be supported,” she said. ”We’re in a place now in Australia where there is more understanding of the truth of our past.”

Indigenous policy also swayed the vote of Bob Katter, the Queensland MP who broke ranks from the other two influential rural independents and sided with the Coalition.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had failed to guarantee that the homes promised to remote communities would be built by indigenous people, he said.

Mr Katter, a former Queensland Aboriginal affairs minister, wants indigenous people to be given title deeds that allow ownership of homes and businesses. He also wants to remove the Wild Rivers legislation in Queensland that he said deprived ”our first Australians from any hope of achieving economic self-determination and independence”.

The prominence of indigenous affairs in the hung Parliament showed there was a bipartisan will to advance the rights of indigenous people, Ms Burney said.

”It is unacceptable that one group of people within the Australian community find themselves on the bottom rung of every social indicator,” she said.

READ: Brisbane Times


Scroll to Top