• Indigenous Australians awaiting a Treaty and Sovereignty
With the arrival of the 44th federal Parliament comes the call for constitutional recognition of Indigenous people in Australia.
By
Malarndirri McCarthy

Source:
NITV News
15 Nov 2013 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2013 - 6:36 PM

Constitutional lawyer Professor George Williams says a Treaty and Sovereignty are issues that Australia should be prepared to consider and recognise.

In May this year, the Journey to Recognition began in Federation Square and travelled to Gulkula in Arnhem Land where it stopped while the Federal election was underway. It then continued on to Western Australia.

Now with the end of week one of the new Parliament comes the beginning of a new chapter in the road to recognition, and already a legal expert says a Treaty must be considered, similar to what is happening in other countries.

"What Canada is doing is dealing with treaties that affect land, recognise problems of past dispossession , provide an occasion for compensation and also provide for a better political settlement; with Indigenous people of inclusion in the political realms and a greater say in the matters that affect them," Professor Williams said.

Another example for Australia to learn from is New Zealand's Waitangi Treaty signed in 1840.

Calls for a Treaty in Australia were put to song by the late Mr Yunupingu and the Yothu Yindi band, which still resonates deeply in the political push for recognition.

Boomerang petition on its way to Canberra

 

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Bark Petition from Arnhem Land, the first Yolngu petition for land rights accepted in the Australian parliament.

In Federal Parliament this week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Indigenous constitutional recognition is a major priority of his.

Professor Williams said a Constitutional Convention needs to be held by the people and not just politicians as issues like a Treaty and Sovereignty should be broadly discussed.

"Aboriginal people never gave up their sovereignty and many rightly are trying to assert it. I see it as separate issues, though the Australian Constitution is not something that deals directly with Aboriginal sovereignty, so Aboriginal peoples can argue the changes to remove racial discrimination without removing their claims to sovereignty. It's a bit like a Treaty, it's one of the things that does need to be dealt with but it’s not something that needs to be dealt with at the same time as Constitutional change," Professor Williams said.

NITV News understands that plans are underway for Constitutional Convention.