RECOGNISE – Koori Mail Op Ed: Recognition lets seize the opportunity

The announcement of Patrick Dodson’s move to the Australian Senate for WA is another significant moment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

He is a leader of great integrity and intellect, whose advocacy commands enormous respect. With the potential move of another experienced leader, Linda Burney to the Canberra corridors of power, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Federal parliamentarians is moving towards population parity, although I am sure before too long we will exceed this base line. They will join current MPs including Ken Wyatt, Nova Peris, Joanna Lindgren and Jacqui Lambie.

This is a big shift in our nation’s politics, importantly across both sides, and the stage is set for even more movement, as it should be.
In the 25 years since the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Patrick Dodson has been instrumental in maintaining momentum for the recognition of our peoples in the Constitution.

Now, we are moving ever closer to ending the silence on 40,000 plus years of Indigenous custodianship of this country and addressing racial discrimination in our Constitution. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have reaffirmed their commitment to having a referendum next year.

Shortly the next chapter will begin with the commencement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander conventions. Communities across Australia will be invited to come together to discuss the model for constitutional change.

Some are cynical about it, and that’s understandable. I too have spent years watching reports, inquiries and recommendations come and go with little to show for it. As far as constitutional recognition goes, none of the numerous reports and their related recommendations have received a direct response from any government.

But right now, I’m urging everyone to take a wider view. We are at a crucial and positive stage in the decades-long campaign for recognition and dealing with racial discrimination in our Constitution. We now have the opportunity to change this. And if we miss this chance it may never come again.

Recently there have been renewed calls for a treaty and positive steps towards an agreement with the Victorian Government. This is a good thing and it’s not at odds with the push for recognition. Recognition is not a substitute for a treaty. It’s a separate issue and a separate process. Recognition is something we’re absolutely entitled to and there is a huge amount of support for it, across politics and all walks of life. We can seize the opportunity that’s in front of us right now and make it happen…


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