Title

Mick Gooda calls for Indigenous Constitutional recognition at Notre Dame talk

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 7-8-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place

Fremantle

Abstract

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples could be the vehicle to improving their social independency and relationship with Australian governments and the wider community, according to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda.

The man who has pioneered social, health and legal reforms for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the past 25 years called on Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to uphold her promise of holding a referendum to recognise the first Australians in the Constitution within the next two years.

Mr Gooda delivered a keynote lecture during NAIDOC Week celebrations at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle Campus on Monday, July 4. The title of his speech was – Working towards Social Justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Mr Gooda is pushing for the history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Country to be formally recognised in the Australian Constitution. He said it would give Australia and its people a more complete national identity.

Hailing from the Ghangulu peoples of the Dawson Valley in Central Queensland, Mr Gooda said Indigenous people continued to battle physical, spiritual and emotional odds in their communities.

He said it was “unacceptable” that the Australian Indigenous population had the same life expectancy rates as people living in developing nations.

Mr Gooda questioned whether reconciliation would become a reality if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continued to live in such disadvantage compared to the rest of the Australian community.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed by the Commonwealth Government in 2009, provides a platform to challenge poverty, incarceration rates and other human rights issues in Indigenous communities according to Mr Gooda.

Mr Gooda believed Australia was ready for “new, stronger and deeper relationships with the first peoples” after the Commonwealth’s National Apology in 2008. But he said meaningful understanding and respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures was also required to achieve reconciliation.

“For my tenure as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, I decided to focus on issues that are foundational to an agenda of hope,” Mr Gooda said during his speech.

“An agenda which aims to unleash the potential of Indigenous Australians, maximise the capabilities of each and every Indigenous Australian and tackle the root causes of Indigenous health and social inequality.

“Human rights are useful because they provide governments and the people with a set of minimum legal standards which, if applied to all people, would establish a framework for a society to foster dignity and equality whilst celebrating difference.

“I firmly believe this is the right time, right here and now, for the Australian people to formally recognise in our Constitution the special and unique place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold in our nation.”

The 1967 Referendum, which ensured that Aboriginal people would be included in the Census and allowed the Commonwealth Government to make laws for Aboriginal people, was supported by more than 90 per cent of voters.

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