The former head of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has spoken out against racism and called for constitutional recognition.
Tara Callinan

28 May 2014 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2014 - 7:17 PM

During the Lowitja O'Donoghue Oration in Adelaide last night, Professor Patrick Dodson urged the federal government to rethink its proposed changes to Australia's Racial Discrimination Act.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act currently makes it illegal to publicly "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" a person based on the colour of their skin.

But Professor Dodson said racial hatred was not a trivial matter.

"For every Australian who knows the experience of seeing or reading another human beings racist venom directed towards you, based on the colour of your skin or the ancestry you have, you know the damage it inflicts on us and, most heartbreakingly on our children and grandchildren," he said.

During his public address, Professor Dodson said all Australians have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to stop racism and fix the silence on Aboriginal history in our country's founding document.  

He urged listeners to join the journey towards recognition and complete the work started by Indigenous leaders in 1967.

"The 1967 referendum was won with more than 90 per cent 'yes' vote, making it a great source of inspiration. To complete the work of those leaders of the 1967 referendum we must ensure that the laws passed for our people cannot be for the adverse purpose. In order to do this we must deal with the race provisions once and for all and eliminate race as a basis of law making."

Federal cabinet will soon consider a final recommendation on changes to section 18C of the legislation.