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Poverty & SDGs

Time to Recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution

SYDNEY, Dec 30 2014 (IPS) - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders comprise 2.5 per cent (some 548,370) of Australia’s 24-million strong population, but they are not recognised by the Constitution.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Act 2013 (Act of Recognition) acknowledges indigenous peoples’ unique place as Australia’s first peoples.

Recently, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to “sweat blood” to secure constitutional recognition for indigenous people with the hope of holding a referendum in May 2017, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that approved constitutional amendments relating to Indigenous people.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have suffered centuries of discrimination, still face inequality in health, education, income and housing. Many of these challenges are human rights issues and they are at the core of indigenous disadvantage, experts say.

Mick Gooda, a descendent of the Gangulu people from the Dawson Valley in central Queensland, is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The post of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner was created by the federal parliament in 1992, in response to three key inquiries – the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; a Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Inquiry into racial hatred; and the Native Title Act – which contributed to raising awareness about the extreme social and economic disadvantage and injustice faced by Indigenous peoples.

Gooda has been a strong advocate for the recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia for over 25 years. He spoke to IPS following the launch of his annual Social Justice and Native Title Report in Sydney.


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  • Southland George

    Also time to talk Treaty/ies. Australia is the only post colonial country in the world not to have made a treaty/ treaties with her First Nations people (FNP), the Aboriginal and Torres strait Islanders (A&TSI). TODAY, there is active assimilation in Australia and skyrocketing incarceration and suicide rates, closures of remote A&TSI communities, denial of bi-lingual education (ceased in NT then later reinstated -in name only-not funded adequately), the stripping of A&TSI rights to control their lives and lands. Lands control being attacked/ stripped away across Australia e.g read articles at Recognition is important. So too, are basic human rights and the right to self-determination. Self -determination is denied First Nations people of Australia.Worth watching this recent short 8 minute clip