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Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people

Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people

This month the NSW Government announced its decision to formally recognise the State's Aboriginal people in the preamble of the NSW Constitution, 108 years after the formation of NSW State…

This month the NSW Government announced its decision to formally recognise the State's Aboriginal people in the preamble of the NSW Constitution, 108 years after the formation of NSW State Parliament.

The NSW Government proposes to amend the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) by inserting a new section 2A acknowledging and honouring the Aboriginal people as the first people and nations of the State and recognising that Aboriginal people have a spiritual, social and cultural relationship with their traditional lands and waters

New South Wales follows Victoria and Queensland, which respectively amended their Constitutions in 2004 and 2008 in recognition of Aboriginal people.

The Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has congratulated the NSW Government on its decision as well as those involved in making the important change, including NSW Aboriginal Land Council. "It represents a significant advance to the recognition and protection of human rights in this country," the ALRH said in a statement.

The ALHR urges the NSW Government to support the symbolic recognition with practical outcomes addressing Aboriginal disadvantage across the State.

Welcoming the Government's decision, the chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Bev Manton said: "NSWALC has, and continues to, work tirelessly in the best interests of NSW Aboriginal residents and [the] announcement assists us greatly in continuing to build a positive, practical partnership with the Keneally Government in NSW...Health, housing and education are obviously vital to Aboriginal people but so too is getting the relationship right between black and white Australians."

Manton continued by saying the express recognition of Aboriginal people in the NSW Constitution was a direct outcome of the Local Government Association of NSW 2009 Annual Conference.

"It was in this meeting that NSWALC put forward 'Resolution 60A' which called upon the Federal and NSW Governments to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of this country," Manton said.

"But while NSWALC warmly welcomes the move, it also provides everyone with a timely reminder of the many challenges our mob still face in 2010...a mountain of work lies before all of us."

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