Australian constitutional recognition: a chance to have your say, and why it matters

Posted: October 21st, 2014

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Get your voice heard

The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples has been established to inquire into steps that can be taken to progress towards a successful referendum on the recognition of Indigenous peoples in the Australian constitution.

The committee is currently receiving public submissions, and they are due by THURSDAY 30 October 2014. The committee prefers that written submissions are made online at their website. Submissions can also be sent by email (, or post:

Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
PO Box 6100
Parliament House

In July of this year the committee tabled an interim report in the Parliament, and it has since been holding public hearings around Australia. To access the report click here.

What is this all about?

There are a few aspects to this area: it is not just about adding positive recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the Australian constitution, but also about removing very outdated and negative things that are still in that document. Unfortunately, the famous 1967 referendum that allowed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be counted in the national census, did not fix other big problems in the Australian constitution.

Section 25 of the Australian constitution allows States to disqualify people from voting, on the basis of the race of those people. The majority of people now agree that this section is discriminatory and that it should be deleted.

The 1967 referendum changed the constitution to allow the Federal Parliament, rather than the States, to make laws relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But today, most people agree that power sometimes has been misused to allow the making of laws that harm particular races, including Indigenous Australians, more than other Australians. There are a lot of different views about how this problem might be fixed though, and YMAC is open to hearing from you about it. If you have time to read the interim report mentioned above, don’t be shy about letting YMAC’s new policy officer, Cameron Poustie, know how you think we should respond: he’s at or on 08 9268 7000.

Finally, there’s the question of whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be recognised with an introductory paragraph somewhere in the Australian constitution. There seems to be strong support in the Australian community for this type of change as well, but at the moment there are different views as to how it might be done. It should be remembered that a proposed ‘preamble’ was voted down in a national referendum in 1999, so the consultation process before the voting needs to be a lot better this time. Again, if you have an opinion, please get in touch with Cameron Poustie as above.