Proposed legislation introduced into Federal Parliament to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first inhabitants is an important stepping stone on the path to recognition of and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution. In a submission to a parliamentary committee, the HRLC has welcomed the proposed legislation but cautioned that it should not be seen as an alternative to Constitutional recognition.
"Formal recognition in an Act of Parliament is an important step to garner multi-partisan and broad public support for a referendum," says the Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of International Human Rights Advocacy, Ben Schokman.
"However, this must be seen as being only one step on the road towards modernising the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first inhabitants."
In addition to enhancing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, the process for considering potential Constitutional reform must also respect and give effect to Australia’s human rights obligations. "It is essential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are able to participate meaningfully in any process that considers whether and how they are to be recognised in our Constitution."
"It is also essential that the national conversation about Constitutional reform build on the important work already undertaken by the Expert Panel," says Mr Schokman.
A copy of the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the Joint Select Committee is available here.