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Commissioners lobby for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians

Graphic: Commissioner June Oscar addresses the parliamentary committee

The joint submission sets out a four-step process to advance reconciliation and deliver social justice for Indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and all former Social Justice Commissioners have called for a referendum on constitutional recognition within five years.

Commissioner Oscar joined with former Commissioners Mick Gooda and Professor Tom Calma to present their proposal to a parliamentary committee.

Commissioner Oscar told the committee that it was time begin robust negotiations between Indigenous Australians and the Australian Parliament.

"Over the past 25 years, we have all outlined options for addressing the unfinished business of reconciliation and delivering social justice for Indigenous Australians," she said.

Commissioner Oscar said that four actions have continually been raised as necessary, systemic reforms to address the human rights concerns facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities:

  • A representative voice for Indigenous peoples;
  • Constitutional reform;
  • A truth telling process; and
  • An agreement or treaty-making framework.

The joint submission sets out a four-step process, which includes a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act that provides a framework for the participation of Indigenous peoples and negotiating unfinished business.

It calls for a five-year commitment from the federal Parliament to achieve constitutional reform and recommends a regular parliamentary motion to hold parliamentarians to account on whether they support removing racism from the Constitution.

The Commissioners also call for a negotiation process between parliamentarians, the Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to finalise the wording of constitutional recognition.

"We must establish a Truth and Reconciliation Royal Commission, establish and constitutionally enshrine a national voice, and develop strong accountability mechanisms and allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in Senate Estimates processes.

"Measures such as these are critical if this country is to make good on its commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with freedom from discrimination, as well as self-determination, participation in decision-making and the protection of our language and cultures.

Read the submission to the inquiry.

Date: 19 October 2018

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission


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  1. Commissioner June Oscar addresses the parliamentary committee - Australian Human Rights Commission