The Law Council of Australia has linked constitutional reform to the reconciliation process via a new discussion paper outlining options for recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution.
"Indigenous Australians were denied voting rights, denied fair pay and refused citizenship and unfortunately the vestiges of those attitudes continue to exist under the Constitution today," said LCA President Alexander Ward. "Constitutional recognition should also assist with overall reconciliation."
On 8 November 2010 Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that there would be a referendum to recognise Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian Constitution either before or at the next Federal Election.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly in March, Professor George Williams, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and the Anthony Mason Professor at the University of NSW, said that the Australian Constitution still contained elements that most Australians would find offensive.
"There are still provisions like Section 25 that permit racial discrimination in that it enables the states to prevent someone from voting based on their race," said Williams.
"Also the 'race power subsection', contained in Section 51(26) of the Constitution, which the High Court has left open to the possibility that it can be used to enact racially discriminatory laws.
"I have no doubt that people would like to see things like Section 25 removed, because people are horrified that it is still actually in there in the first place."
In addition to discussing whether the Constitution should guarantee equality and prohibit racial discrimination, the LCA discussion paper also explored the question of whether the Commonwealth should enter agreements with Indigenous communities enabled by constitutional force.
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