Sunday, December 26, 2010

How NSW could constitutionally recognise Aboriginal people . . .

This is how constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people could look in New South Wales, proposes Gareth Griffith:

05 August 2010For the purpose of honouring and recognising the unique historical position of Aboriginal people, the NSW Government proposes to amend the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) by the insertion of a new section 2A. The proposed section reads as follows:

(a) The People and Parliament of New South Wales acknowledge and honour the Aboriginal people as the first people and nations of the State, and
(b) The People and Parliament of New South Wales recognise that Aboriginal people have a spiritual, social, and cultural relationship with their traditional lands and waters and have made a unique and lasting contribution to the identity of New South Wales.
(c) Nothing in this section creates in any person any legal right or gives rise to any civil cause of action, or affects the interpretation of this Act or any other law in force in New South Wales.
The Constitution of NSW presently does not have a preamble, nor does it have other express recognition of Aboriginal People.  As the Constitution is an Act of Parliament it may be readily amended by an amending Act and this has been done over 80 times since 1902.

See also Lawyers Weekly on NSW Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people:

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Marcia Langton on why we need constitutional change

Our Constitution does not recognise the First Australians. In fact it enables governments to discriminate against under the 'race power.' The referendum of 1967, while it resulted in indigenous people being counted in the census and gave the Commonwealth the power to legislate on indigenous matters, did not give us recognition or equality. Even though the Racial Discrimination Act foribids racism, governments continue to discriminate. Could constitutional amendment stop discrimination against us? Many years ago, I became interested in the Makarrarta campaign that the Aboriginal Treaty Committee and the National Aboriginal Congress pursued. The problem was then, as it is now, that indigenous Australians have no status in the nation other than as ordinary citizens, which clearly we are not: we are the inheritors of ancient Australian traditions, including polities, or tribes, or clans. These long predate the Annexation of Australia and the Australian Constitution. Various statutes define our status in very limited ways, although some give quite important rights, but always at the pleasure of the Crown of the day. The following documents are a potted history of my own interests in constitutional issues and the way that indigenous Australians have argued for a better deal from the nation state that was built on our land:

There's more to come.