Constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians must involve structural change, not mere symbolism
In his Closing the Gap speech to parliament last week, the prime minister injected some order and transparency back into the constitutional recognition process.
So many people were utterly confounded when Ken Wyatt, the minister for Indigenous Australians, unilaterally decided there would be a referendum on Indigenous recognition with a symbolic proposal – likely a statement of recognition – that no one was advocating for. This proposal was recently rejected by the constitutional dialogues and in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. It was also rejected before that in the 2015 Kirribilli Statement.
Then, last month, the minister announced a firm deadline for a referendum on symbolism to be held in mid-2021. Confusion reigned.
However important symbols are to Aboriginal people, nine years of this work shows, incontrovertibly, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not seek more symbols. And certainly not in the constitution, which distributes power across the federation. They seek change that can make a concrete difference to their lives.
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