The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has released a discussion paper which sets out some ideas for amending the Constitution.
The ideas include:
• introducing a preamble or a new provision in the body of the Constitution that recognises Indigenous peoples’ distinct cultural identity and their prior ownership and custodianship of Australian land and waters;
• amending the parts of the Constitution that could potentially be used to make racially discriminatory laws;
• introducing a guarantee of non-discrimination and racial equality for all Australians;
• adding a power that would allow the Commonwealth Government to pass laws to protect the culture, historical disadvantage and unique place of Indigenous peoples;
• adding a power that would allow the Commonwealth Government to enter into specific agreements with Indigenous communities in relation to issues such as education and rights to land. These agreements would have the force and effect of Commonwealth law.
The discussion paper asks a number of questions about Constitutional recognition including:
• Would recognition of Indigenous peoples in Australia’s Constitution more accurately reflect the national identity?
• How important are each of the forms of recognition outlined in the discussion paper?
• Are there other ideas for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians not contained in this paper that the Panel should consider?
The Panel is currently calling for submissions about any of the points raised in the Discussion Paper or any other ideas for amending the Constitution. Information about how to make a submission can be accessed here.
The Panel will report its findings to the Government by December 2011.