Now is the time for Australia to constitutionally recognise its indigenous peoples, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda at the National Press Club yesterday (3 November).
Gooda, who commenced his five-year term as Commissioner in February this year, said there has never been a better time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to take their rightful place in society and unleash their full potential, and constitutional recognition is part of that process.
"I firmly believe the time is right, here and now, for the Australian people to formalise the recognition in our Constitution of the special and unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our nation," he said.
"This referendum about a change to our Constitution is not just about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It's not about looking back but about looking forward and moving forward as one, united nation."
Gooda revealed he has committed to working with political leaders and the people of Australia over the next three years to achieve a successful referendum in 2013 which formally recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.
Gooda also stressed that indigenous peoples around the country were still suffering due to the ongoing suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act which occurred when the Northern Territory Intervention was imposed in 2007.
"There's hurt in our communities and the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments are not good," he said.
"Consciously or unconsciously, structures and processes that allow our people to be treated less equally than other Australians are simply unacceptable."
Gooda also pledged to work with governments to develop legislation, policies and practices to improve, rather than burden, the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Gooda's National Press Club address can be found online at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/2010/20101103_npc.html