Changing the constitution

Tuesday, 30th August, 2011

Locals are invited to have their say on changing the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

A public consultation will be held in Broken Hill tomorrow as part of a national discussion on the topic.

Twenty members of a Panel appointed by the Prime Minister, made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders, legal experts and members of parliament, have been travelling across the country, talking to Australians to gauge opinions and stimulate discussion.

Panel members Mr Mick Gooda and Mr Glenn Ferguson will be hosting a consultation in Broken Hill at 4pm tomorrow at the Broken Hill Centre for Community.

As well as participating directly, people who want to have their say can write a letter, email a submission or contribute on the website at www.youmeunity.org.au.

When the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not participate.

Many Australians now believe the Constitution should be changed to reflect the society we live in today.

From the 40 public consultations held to date, there has been very strong support across the community for constitutional recognition. 

A recent survey of members of the National Congress of Australiaís First Peoples found 88 per cent of the 630 respondents regarded constitutional recognition as a top priority.

A second survey of 2100 members of Generation One found that 98 per cent wanted formal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

Over the next two months, around 50 more public consultations and other meetings will be held across the country.  

The panel will report to the Government in December this year with proposed options for change that are likely to have the best chance of success at a referendum.

To succeed, the referendum must attract the support of a majority vote nationally, and a majority of votes in a majority of states.