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Our Foundress Mary MacKillop
Julian Tenison Woods
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September 08, 2011
Remember how significant were the words “We are sorry” when Prime Minister Rudd apologized to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, for the detrimental effects on them of past government policies?
These words triggered an enormous outpouring of emotion and healing across the nation. Many Aborigines declared that for the first time they felt truly Australian. Many of us felt increasingly proud to be Australian. Over the next three years we are again being offered an opportunity to keep building our nation.
The Australian Government is committed to recognition of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Australians in the Australian Constitution. The Opposition, The Greens and Independent members have all given in principle support to this reform.
To begin the process, the Government has called together an Expert Panel, which is made up of respected individuals and includes Indigenous and community leaders, constitutional experts and members of parliament. It is this Expert Panel’s job to begin the National Conversation around how ATSI peoples could be recognized in the Constitution. The Panel has released an on-line discussion paper (which can be found on the ‘Youmeunity’ website) and it has begun a national series of consultations based on this discussion paper. The dates for these consultations can also be found on this website (see below)
This Panel will report back to the Government in December 2011 on the various options put forward, and the support for each option from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the broader community. Their advice will be used to frame a Referendum question that will be put to the nation in 2013.
Since Federation in 1902, Australian voters have approved only 8 of 44 referenda put to them. The 8 adopted all had (1) multi-party support, (2) community education on the need for change and (3) “ownership” by the people. This National Conversation will conclude with your voting in a referendum on the Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, some time in 2013.
You are invited to participate in this national conversation and to pray for its success. Please make your vote in 2013 an informed one and make it count!