Constitutional Reform - What is it all about?

The constitutional reform agenda is about recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this country as well as addressing racial discrimination in Australia’s founding legal document – the Constitution. Currently, the Constitution doesn’t contain any references to the First People of Australia. Read more about this history, & the proposed changes please read our briefing paper

 

Constitutional Reform Position statement

Reconciliation Victoria supports the calls of the Aboriginal community in Victoria for the long-overdue negotiation of a Treaty…

A Treaty – an agreement between governments and Aboriginal people – will address the nature of Australia’s settlement and colonial history and the ongoing impacts these have had on Aboriginal people, and provide Aboriginal people self determination over their own lives and futures, as shown by evidence to be the key to creating wellbeing. … We also believe that the Australian Constitution needs to be changed, as it currently includes racist clauses and at the same time omits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples.

It is our understanding that both state-based Treaty discussions and the national constitutional reform agenda can be progressed alongside each other. Both will represent significant milestones in our country’s history, but they must be informed by the diverse voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples if they are to be achieved.  To read our full position statement please follow this link.

 

So where are things at?

Nationally: 

On June 30 2017, The Referendum Council presented PM Turnbull and Opposition Leader Shorten with their Final Report. Two weeks later, the PM released the report publicly.  

There are two recommendations detailed in the report; firstly that a referendum be held to include a provision in the constitution for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations Voice to the Commonwealth Parliament; and secondly that a Declaration of Recognition be enacted to articulate a symbolic statement of recognition to unify Australians.

On Sorry Day, 26th May 2017, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates brought to a close a three day Constitutional Conference by presenting the Uluru Statement From The Heart. The conference was the culmination of six months of comprehensive regional dialogues coordinated by the Referendum Council, held across Australia. At each dialogue feedback was sought on the five options as presented in the Referendum Council’s Discussion Paper. 

This is a historic event and a powerful and unifying statement, a statement that empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, that champions their rights and demands to be heard. The statement demands substantive constitutional reform, the establishment of a First Nations Voice and a Makarrata Commission “…to supervise agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.” A symbolic statement of recognition in the constitution has wholeheartedly been rejected as a reform proposal. Seven of the 250 delegates walked out of the Uluru Conference, including some of the Victorian and NSW delegates and their supporters. 

We believe that the recommendations proposed within the Final Report from the Referendum Council and the Uluru Statement are significant and needs to be discussed, and look forward to dialogues unfolding in relation to this in Victoria. 

As of August 11, 2017, Recognise has been disbanded, and is transitioning into Reconciliation Australia.

In October 2016 the Referendum Council released a discussion paper, they have also launched a website to host digital consultations and provide more information on constitutional reform.

The Referendum Council sought feedback on the following proposals via their nationwide consultations.

 drafting a statement acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians, and inserting it either in the Constitution or outside the Constitution, either as a preamble in a new head of power or in a statutory Declaration of Recognition

 amending or deleting the ‘race power’, section 51 (xxvi) and replacing it with a new head of power (which might contain a statement of acknowledgement as a preamble to that power) to enable the continuation of necessary laws with respect to Indigenous issues

 inserting a constitutional prohibition against racial discrimination into the Constitution  providing for an Indigenous voice to be heard by Parliament, and the right to be consulted on legislation and policy that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 deleting section 25, which contemplates the possibility of a State government excluding some Australians from voting in State elections on the basis of their race.

Recognise are continuing to build community awareness and support for constitutional reform. The Journey to Recognition is in hiatus, however they will have a strong presence at festivals and events over summer across Australia. 

In spite of there being bi-partisan support for constitutional reform, neither major party has officially responded to any of the recommendations made in numerous reports over the past few years by various, government initiated, committees. From the Expert Panel, to the Joint Select Committee to the Referendum Council, none of their recommendations have been officially responded to or addressed.

No date has been set for a referendum, 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 referendum.

What is RecVic doing?

Reconciliation Victoria are committed to facilitating greater community awareness and understanding on the issues of Treaty & Constitutional Reform, and in particular to provide a balanced and informed voice on these issues to Reconciliation Victoria’s supporters and networks.

For more information about the Victorian Context and RecVic's involvement to date, follow this link.

Latest News

Bridget Brennan, "Recognise campaign ends after making 'significant contribution" (ABC News, August 11, 2017)

Stephen Fitzpatrick, "Indigenous Recognise campaign ditched" (The Australian Newspaper, August 10, 2017)

Galarrwuy Yunupingu “Makarrata the map to reconciliation: over to you, leaders” (The Australian, July 31, 2017)

“Indigenous leaders urge Australians to get behind Uluru Statement proposal” (NITV News, 25 July, 2017)

Bridget Bennan “Indigenous groups worry 'Voice to Parliament' referendum proposal will be watered down” (ABC News, July 25, 2017) 

Editor, “Senior leaders call for indigenous advisory body” (The Australian Newspaper, 24th July)

“The Uluru statement and Indigenous recognition” (The Saturday Paper, July 29, 2017)

 

For more news and information about upcoming events please visit our Latest News tab.