Media Release Constitutional Reform (5th Apology Anniversary)

13th Feb 13

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The NSDC welcomes the multi-party support for the Bill for Recognition to be tabled this week in the Australian Parliament, marking the historic fifth anniversary of the Apology.
Today's bill signals an opportunity for Australia to come of age as a nation, for us all to think deeply about the notion of constitutional recognition and to ask ourselves: 'Who are we as a nation?'

"Recognition in the Australian Constitution is long overdue," says Michael West, who took up the position of Co-Chair in late 2012. "The Apology shifted things so that Stolen Generations no longer had to justify who they are or the suffering of their families. Today this bill, to Recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution, builds on that recognition and brings the healing of this nation a step closer."

"Recognition goes two ways", said Mr West. “We have to ask ourselves as Aboriginal people, 'What is the bottom line in our relationship as First Peoples to the wider Australian community? What is our collective relationship with this country, our precious environment, and our shared responsibilities to the place we call home?’ This debate is an important opportunity for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders around the country to lead Australia on the final questions that will be put to the national referendum, when the time comes."

Co-Chair , Maryanne Allan says: "Individual and family healing is being held back whilst Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are not accorded the dignity that is the right of all First Peoples. For over two hundred years their status as First Peoples on this continent has been whitewashed. We saw that with the forcible removal policies, and this continues in our nation's founding document, which has deliberately excluded our First Peoples. This has to change," said Ms Allan. 

The NSDC understands that the referendum debate will involve a long process of education with all sectors of the Australian public. We urge all Australians to actively participate in the process of education and debate. Schools, clubs, faith groups, trade unions and community groups all have a role to play in ensuring an inclusive process, which the NSDC is keen to support. 

We are hopeful that the time for change and healing is with us. The Apology itself took ten long years of campaigning by the NSDC and others. The 1967 Referendum also took ten years. The formal decade of reconciliation culminated in the momentous Bridge Walks around the county. The NSDC believes it is time to harness that energy again with a new generation. We commend the parliament for its unanimous support of this bill. 

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