An international expert says Indigenous constitutional recognition should be a “national project” not an issue exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz was among the Indigenous leaders, academics and policymakers who met in Canberra this week for a forum on First Nations governance.
Speaking on a panel at the National Press Club on Wednesday, she said that all Australians should play a part in bringing about constitutional reform that will address the rights of the country’s Indigenous peoples.
“Australians who are not Indigenous should be actively engaged in putting pressure on the government,” she told NITV News.
“They should march hand in hand with Indigenous Australians … to amplify their voices as well as to support their efforts to get the government to do the right thing.”
Ms Tauli-Corpuz has previously written scathing reports about Australia’s track record on Indigenous rights. However, she said she believed most Australians supported better justice and equality for Indigenous people.
“I’m hopeful that Indigenous Australians will continue to assert and claim their rights,” she said.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart suggested setting up a new formal body to represent Indigenous Australians in parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected the proposal in October saying he did not believe it was desirable or capable of winning a national referendum.
However, Mattias Ahren, a law professor who belongs to Ohredahke Sami reindeer herding community in Sweden, was among the experts who called for Indigenous recognition in the Australian constitution.
“You can’t give Indigenous people just one shot at representation and then say it failed — that’s not how it works,” he told the National Press Club.
Indigenous leader and academic Mick Dodson said also there was “a lot of goodwill out there” for constitutional reform.
“We have a lot of supporters, not only people who are fair-minded, but who come to this issue of the relationship between indigenous Australia and the rest of the country with a very, very good heart,” he said.