Indigenous rights and the Constitution: making the case for constitutional reform

10 Sep 2008

Recently, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd revived John Howard’s 2007 pre-election proposal to amend the preamble to the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.1 Rudd’s announcement was prompted after Yolgnu and Bininj elders presented him with a Statement of Intent at the Federal Government’s Community Cabinet meeting in Yirrkala, Northern Territory. Prior to that, constitutional reform had been raised by participants in the Indigenous stream at the Federal Government’s 2020 Summit in Canberra and at the Barunga Festival in the Northern Territory. In fact, it has been a perennial focus of unfinished business between Indigenous peoples and the state.

Therefore, this paper argues that in advocating for constitutional reform, we need to emphasise the connection between dealing with disadvantage - an urgent and immediate priority - and the ‘big picture’ in terms of addressing unfinished business between Indigenous peoples and the state. The Indigenous community is diverse enough in leadership and expertise and committed enough to work toward both outcomes.

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