BRISBANE Catholics have been urged to add their voice to the nationwide discussion on how the Australian Constitution might be amended to recognise indigenous people.
“You Me Unity” is the national conversation about updating the Australian Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture for the benefit of all Australians.
The project has the full support of all federal political parties and Independents.
Forums have already been held on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, (August 9) and Gold Coast (August 10), and members of the panel established by the Federal Government will visit Brisbane this week (August 25).
The panel has the task of seeking community input and written submissions on what form a constitutional change could take.
It comprises indigenous and non-indigenous leaders from urban, regional and remote areas and includes community and business leaders, academics and Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum.
The group has already produced a discussion paper to assist in the consultation process with a report to be prepared for the Australian Government in December.
Executive officer of Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) Peter Arndt is urging Brisbane Catholics to have a say on the possible constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and help identify changes that are most likely to have strong community support.
“Only eight of 44 referendums have ever succeeded in changing the Australian Constitution,” Mr Arndt said.
“The Brisbane forum on Thursday, August 25, is to be held in the Abel Smith lecture theatre at the University of Queensland, St Lucia, from 4.30 to 6.30pm and I’m hoping to be there along with other Brisbane Catholics.
“We (CJPC) are keen to make sure, constitutional recognition, whatever form it takes, goes beyond lip service and tokenism.”
Mr Arndt said he would be listening closely to the views and expressions of the wider Brisbane community during the August 25 forum.
“After we’ve (CJPC) had an opportunity to listen to what people have to say and what is proposed we expect to have discussion at a local level to formulate a submission that responds to all that,” he said.
Mr Arndt also encouraged parishes, deaneries and schools to initiate their own forums and make their own online submission before the closing date on September 30.
“They can get together as a group and organise their own consultation and if they want we could help with that,” he said.
Mr Arndt said communities in far north Queensland would have their own opportunity to have a say with forums to take place in various locations such as Palm Island, Thursday Island, Townsville, Cairns and Weipa during mid-September.
He said a discussion paper and guide to the issues involved was available on the You Me Unity website and was a good starting point for anyone wanting to make a submission.
Mr Arndt said ideas already raised by constitutional experts for constitutional change included such things as a Statement of Recognition in a Preamble to the Constitution, or in the body of the Constitution, acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, identities and heritage; and a Statement of Values in a Preamble or in the Constitution itself, which would include both recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and set out the fundamental values of Australia’s society such as personal freedoms, the rule of law, racial and gender equality, and commitment to democratic government.
He said other issues under discussion were the repeal or amendment of provisions in the Constitution currently based on racial discrimination and creation in the Constitution of a new guarantee of non-discrimination and racial equality.