Recognition & An Advisory Body
The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians recommended that, in addition to any symbolic language inserted in the Constitution, two substantive changes needed to be made:
- First, provisions that the Panel deemed to be racist ought to be removed;
- Secondly, the Panel proposed inserting a provision that prohibits racial discrimination.
These issues are investigated in Noel Pearson’s Quarterly Essay, A Rightful Place. Pearson argues that, rather than adopting a racial non-discrimination clause, we should consider creating an indigenous body that could advise the Parliament on indigenous matters. This way, it would be indigenous people, rather than the High Court, that tells the Parliament what is in the interests of indigenous people.
- To read an extract from Pearson’s Quarterly Essay, click here.
While we do not tolerate racial discrimination, we believe that it is inappropriate to insert a racial non-discrimination clause in the Constitution. We believe that this will undermine the existing relationship between the Parliament and the High Court. We believe that Pearson’s approach is worthy of serious consideration, because it offers a means of ensuring that the indigenous voice is heard in the legislative process, without challenging the relationship that the Constitution establishes between the Commonwealth Parliament and the High Court.
The Australian Parliament established a Joint Select Committee on Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution, to consider the Expert Panel’s report, and to propose a package of reforms that might be put to the Australian people at a referendum. The Select Committee will table its report in Parliament later this year.
- To read the Select Committee’s latest report, click here.