Williams, George: Australia needs a treaty and constitutional recognition for Indigenous people

Williams, George

Australia needs a treaty and constitutional recognition for Indigenous people’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2016

Indigenous journalist, Stan Grant, claims in the video with this piece that Australia is the only Commonwealth country that lacks a treaty with its First Peoples. (Williams says something similar.) The piece follows a conference in Melbourne where Indigenous representatives talked about a treaty – the Victorian government supports the idea and the Western Australian government already has a broad ranging agreement in place with the Noongar people.

Williams says:

as Australia edges closer to that date [for a referendum on constitutional recognition], momentum is building instead for a different reform. A growing number of Indigenous leaders are joining the call for a treaty, or final settlement of claims, encompassing political representation, land and reparations.

Williams points to the dithering over constitutional recognition and the lack of consultation with Indigenous people.

However, a treaty should not be seen as an alternative to constitutional recognition. No treaty can fix the problems with Australia’s Constitution. Whether Australia enters into treaties, the document must be amended to remove clauses that permit racial discrimination. It also needs to speak of the full history of this continent, and not only of British settlement from 1788.

Peter Brent from Swinburne University asks why not go straight to a treaty? There is other discussion about the treaty option in the posts under our First Peoples thumbnail.

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