Once were warriors
February 10, 2014
The Utopia controversy
February 10, 2014

Day for treaties has gone, road ahead holds key solutions

by Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘Day for treaties has gone, and road ahead holds key solutions’, by Alison Anderson in The Weekend Australian, 8-9 February, 2014.

I agree with Alison “ Constitutional recognition is the opportunity to formally recognise a more truthful story of our nation’s history”.

Alison argues that the time and resources needed for treaty negotiations – a proposal which has recent support form Warren Mundine – could be better used. She says treaty negotiations will fatten the pockets of lawyers but not those in need in the NT. She writes about the importance of education – Aboriginal people can find their voice, move into positions of power and become true partners in the development of the nation. She calls it “our” nation – a shared past and a shared future. She then talks about the importance of jobs and how Aboriginal people can culturally change the workplace. She talks about decision-making in Central Australia and says how critical issues are often discussed without Aboriginal people being present.

She talks about remote communities and the deficits in infrastructure and the comforts in housing provided for government employees. She says in central Australia’s remote communities, the Commonwealth’s commitment to indigenous affairs will not be judged by a few chosen words, it will be judged by bricks and mortar. She notes that economic development requires infrastructure. She says simply, “Out bush, we are off the grid in so many ways: a few bitumen roads, an inconsistent mobile network, intermittent power, limited housing, no available office space”.

I think she makes a very important concluding point which is often overlooked. She says, “Aboriginal people are one of Australia’s greatest assets”. We need, I think as a fundamental, baseline,  requirement to make the legal changes to the constitution to recognise the asset of Aboriginal Australians. The Panel suggests a new section be added to the body of the Constitution which would:

  • recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in various ways, including acknowledging their continuing relationship with traditional lands and waters; and
  • grant Parliament the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Panel also recommends inserting new provisions which would:

  • recognise that Australia’s national language is English and that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are the original Australian languages; and
  • prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic or national origin, but permit laws to be made for the purpose of overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination, or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage of any group.