Contributed by Ugly
Hundreds of First Australians have turned up at Uluru, in order to participate in a three-day convention that will discuss an insertion into the Australian constitution, recognition of the Australian constitution.
Central to this is the need to correct the falsehood that the Frist Fleet arrived to an empty land. There were people and a thriving society here. British settlement led to the removal of the First Peoples from their ancestral lands, genocide and dispossession.
This needs to be asserted into the national consciousness. Without it, there can be no real progress in reconciliation and the justice achieved.
The Convention opened after a powerful declaration from Pat Anderson, the co-chair of the Referendum Council, who said that “our very survival” will depend on the decisions the Convention would take.
“This can’t go on,” Ms Anderson said. “They can’t keep excluding us and making decisions without us being at the table.”
The opening coincided with events in Canberra to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the 25th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision.
Participants arrived after the holding of 12 Indigenous dialogues across the country that have broadly agreed on a set of “guiding principles” for designing a referendum question.
This revealed a strong opinion that although it is important to recognise the First Australians in the Constitution, this must in no way diminish the need for Indigenous sovereignty. Recognition is about making sure the constitution “tells the truth” about history, and provides mechanisms for agreement making.
“People have told us they want substantive change and why they believe we must have a greater say in the policies that affect us”.
Discussion on the details is likely to be lively, because there are differing opinions on what this should be. There is even a view that constitutional recognition will make little practical difference. Others suggest that it can provide a bridge towards more far reaching change.
The important thing is that the First Australians are coming together to discuss t heir future and it is through discussion that the course for the future will be determined.
What this will be, is not a matter for non-Indigenous Australia to decide. But non-Indigenous Australia has a responsibility to listen and assist wherever possible, the process for our fellow Australians to build their own future and do so according to their own needs and vision.