Aboriginal leader hopes to recognize indigenous Australians in constitution by 2013

17:10, November 03, 2010      

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Recognizing indigenous Australians in the constitution would be a nation-building exercise that could put the country back on the path to reconciliation to the stolen generations, an Aboriginal leader in Australia said on Wednesday.

With support from the Labor government, the coalition and the Greens, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda committed to work towards a referendum by 2013, which would recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution.

In an address to the National Press Club, Gooda said a successful referendum by 2013 could help heal the wounds caused by the discriminatory and continuing Northern Territory intervention, and the referendum is most likely held on the same day as the next federal election.

"By finally and formally settling and affirming the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our nation, all of us grow in stature," the commissioner said in Canberra on Wednesday.

"This will be a long, hard journey but it's the journey that will mark our maturity as a nation."

Gooda estimated between 12 million and 13 million people would need to respond with a yes vote to trigger constitutional changes.

"This process will give this generation of Australians the opportunity to say 'yes'. An opportunity to demonstrate goodwill and innate decency," he said.

Gooda also acknowledged concern about the financial cost of a referendum, and called for the funds to be practically invested to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands and the descendants of these peoples. Indigenous Australians are distinguished as either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, who currently together make up about 2.7 percent of present Australia's population.

Source: Xinhua


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