Professor Patrick Dodson has called on all Australians to get behind the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution. He delivered his message at the 2014 Dunstan Foundation Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration in Bonython Hall last night.
Professor Dodson, a leading aboriginal activist on reconciliation, was a co-chair of an Expert panel which recommended extensive constitutional reform to the Federal Government. The Expert Panel – which included Indigenous and community leaders, constitutional experts and parliamentarians – put forward the following recommendations:
- the removal altogether of section 25 of the Constitution. This is a section that still enables the states to disenfranchise people on the basis of race
- the removal of section 51(26), otherwise known as the race power
- that a new power – section 51A – be inserted to replace 51(26). This new section 51A would contain a preambular statement and give the Commonwealth parliament the power to pass laws for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- the insertion of a non-discrimination provision – section 116A. Such a provision would prohibit the Commonwealth States and Territories from discriminating on the basis of race, colour and ethnic or national origin, but would still allow for laws to address the effects of past discrimination, to overcome disadvantage amongst a group of people. or to protect the culture and heritage of any group
- the insertion of a new section 127A that affirms English as the national language of Australia and recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as part of our national heritage
Patrick Dodson’s 2014 Dunstan Foundation Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration address will also be available online shortly. In the meantime, the full Expert Panel Report can be found on the Recognise website at www.recognise.org.au/expert-panel-report