Referendum question forming
Labor MP Linda Burney says the question asked in the referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution must be “winnable”.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives are meeting at Uluru next week for a convention on how to ‘recognise’ Indigenous Australians in the Australian Constitution.
Dialogues held in the lead up have so far rejected the so-called ‘minimalist’ approach of simply inserting words of acknowledgement or scrapping Constitutional references to race.
Advocates want more substantive change, like being able to elect a permanent Indigenous body to advise Parliament.
Ms Burney - the first Aboriginal woman elected to the Lower House - says whatever is asked, the referendum must succeed.
“We must accept that no matter how just and well-crafted the proposal put forward is, it will mean nought if it is not winnable,” she said in a speech at the Australian National University this week.
“If it does we will finally have a national compact which recognises and acknowledges our true history and tells the truth.
“We have to learn the lessons of the 1967 referendum.”
The 50th anniversary of the 1967 vote is on Saturday May 27, marking half a century since Australia voted overwhelmingly to allow the Government to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and count them in the Census.
“The leaders of the movement at that time back in '67 saw that the price of purity was defeat,” Ms Burney said.
“They understood the value of pragmatism and the necessity of politics.”
The acknowledged that the 1967 question was not favoured by all Indigenous people.
“They compromised — they proposed positive constitutional change and a vote on equality which they knew they could win,” Ms Burney said.
“They understood that progress is always slow, painfully so.
“They knew that their victory on that day would pave the way for more in the future.”