Australian politicians should be pressured to bring about Indigenous constitutional recognition within the next five years, all past and present Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioners have said.
The current commissioner June Oscar and her four predecessors Mick Gooda, Tom Calma, William Jonas and Mick Dodson said it was time to stop “endlessly discussing” reform options.
Their submission, to the joint select committee on constitutional recognition, recommended regular parliamentary motions to hold federal politicians “accountable to the Australian people, by indicating whether they support removing racism from the constitution or not”.
It strongly supports the establishment of a truth and reconciliation royal commission.
The commissioners also called for citizen participation in Senate estimates to achieve greater accountability for services to Indigenous Australians.
“We must move on from endlessly discussing the potential reform options and committing to action that will allow Indigenous Australians to take a rightful place in our nation,” Dr Oscar said.
“We want to see constitutional recognition and a voice and a truth telling process being committed to by the Parliament. We are at this point because of a lack of political leadership to adequately respond to the many processes that have taken place. What we now need is strong political leadership to take this forward.”
Last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejected the proposal for a constitutionally enshrined “voice” to parliament representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Australian government said it did not believe that the idea was desirable or capable of winning acceptance in a national referendum.
The parliamentary committee has since heard that there is broad support for the concept of an Indigenous voice to parliament but no firm agreement on “how a voice should be established, what its structure should be and how it should operate”.
The committee's final report is due on November 29.