Who are the 3%?
Indigenous people constitute 3% of the Australian population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
What changes does the government want to make to the Federal constitution?
The referendum proposes to amend five elements of the constitution that will, according to the Recognise campaign ‘…bring the country together after so many chapters apart.’ Voices of the 3% argue that these changes are tokenistic and will only be used to ameliorate white guilt. According to Boe Skuthorpe-Spearim (Gamliaraay) it doesn’t ‘…facilitate real power sharing.’ In fact it takes away the sovereignty of a people who did not consent to have their lands taken away from them.
The first suggestion is to remove section 25, which allows state and territory governments to disqualify people of a certain race voting in elections. ‘It has never been used’ according to Michael Mansell Amending this section will do ‘nothing’ to remove the terrible injustices that face Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, according in Mansell. It only makes ‘…the Prime Minster look good…’
Another inconsistency in the recognise campaign is the amendment of section 51 (xxvi) which are known as ‘race power,’ allowing governments to pass laws that discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You would think that such a change would prevent things like the 2007 intervention from happening, however a new amendment will be added that ‘…preserve the Australian Government’s ability to pass laws to the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’ This will only maintain the status quo.
Adding further insult to injury is the introduction of a new section, 127A. This will acknowledge that indigenous languages were the first to be spoken in the land now known as Australia. This attempt to preserve language is undermined because the referendum will also confirm English as Australia’s official national language. This assumes that English is more important than indigenous languages because it is used by the majority. It has dire ramifications for the preservation of languages by reinforcing that a foreign tongue needs to be learnt because it is used by everyone else.
The recognise campaign only maintains the disproportionate balance of power and assumes that constitutional change will solve all problems. It is in fact an attempt to shift attention from the real issues at steak which is indigenous sovereignty and disadvantage.
When are these changes due to take place?
There is no set date for the forthcoming referendum in Australia to enact changes to our Constitution.
In December 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott nominated May 27, 2017 as a referendum date – the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which gave the Commonwealth the power to legislate law for Aboriginal people to be counted in population statistics. However this date, nor any date is yet to be confirmed.
Discussions are continuing with many groups and a special committee including individuals outside Parliament.
Keep checking this website for updates!
What impact will they have on Aboriginal communities?
The Indigenous community is split over a campaign to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution.
The Recognise campaign calls for a referendum and for all Australians to back constitutional change. It’s backed by the Federal Government, Opposition and the Greens.
There are members of the Indigenous community who argue that campaign doesn’t represent their views and need to recognise the invasion, the massacres, and the genocide?
Many of the indigenous people are concerned that proceeding with a referendum to recognise Aboriginal people in the constitution will set back the campaign for a treaty with Indigenous Australia.
Indigenous activists had been campaigning for a treaty for decades. In 1992 the High Court recognised Native Title in their landmark Mabo decision. Many believe that was the point then we should have been talking about a treaty.
Other countries have made treaties with their indigenous people and many believe the current national debate needs to be about a treaty rather than constitutional recognition.
Debate also includes moves to refer to Indigenous Australians in the constitution as the ‘original occupiers’ rather than the ‘original peoples’ as “Original peoples”… denotes a long connection to land and a belonging to land. Many believe the term ‘occupiers’ is too passive.
Conversely Recognise, which is a part of Reconciliation Australia, says that recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution is an essential next step in reconciling Australia’s past.
On Aboriginal people?
The constitution has negatively impacted the Indigenous people and their communities. The constitution does not recognize the Indigenous and Torres islander people’s occupation and custodian of land ownership; they have been affected in terms of education, health and employment especially those living in remote places. They also suffer social stigma in their own land.
The worst has been the recent forced closure of the Indigenous communities in many parts of the country. They are literally being stripped off of their prerogative.
Why should you care?
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are the first people of this land and it is wrong to deprive them of their birth right. We care because the Indigenous people have a right to live and every right to benefit from their own land like any Australian people.
What does Aboriginal sovereignty mean?
What can you do? How can you get involved?
Please add your voice to the ‘debate’ by uploading an audio or video file on our page. We will create an interactive website to share those videos and spread the voices of the 3%. Follow us on Instagram to see what we’re up to @voicesofthe3.