Australia reveals details of referendum to recognize indigenous peoples

Sydney, Australia, Mar 23 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister on Thursday outlined the proposal to modify the constitution and revealed the referendum question that will be asked this year in order to recognize the country’s indigenous peoples.

Australians will be asked: “A Proposed Law: to alter the constitution to recognize the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Do you approve this proposed alteration?”

“That’s the question before the Australian people. Nothing more, but nothing less,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference in Canberra, in which he was supported by several ministers and senior First Nations representatives.

The initiative proposes the creation of an independent body, called Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (commonly referred to as The Voice), to represent indigenous Australians to advise government and parliament on the views of and matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“This referendum will give Australians the chance to write a new chapter into our constitution,” Albanese said.

If approved, the body will form part of a new three-point chapter to be included in Australia’s 1901 constitution, entitled “Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – 129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”

The points include the recognition of The Voice, that it may make representations to parliament and the executive government, and that parliament would have the power to make laws regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“It’s about justice,” said Albanese. “On every measure, there is a gap between the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the national average, a 10 year gap in life expectancy as suicide rate twice as high, tragic levels of child mortality and disease.”

“A massive over-representation in the prison population in deaths in custody and children sent to out of home care. And this is not because of a shortage of goodwill, or good intentions on any side of politics.”

The leader said the situation is not due to a lack of funds but because “governments have spent decades trying to impose solutions from Canberra rather than consulting with communities.”

Government proposals to recognize First Nations – who are not currently mentioned in the country’s constitution – will be presented next week to parliament in Canberra and may be subject to modifications before being debated.

A Guardian Essential poll published this week indicated that 59 percent of Australians support the creation of The Voice.

The constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations is one of the central promises of Albanese’s 2022 electoral campaign.

The country’s indigenous peoples, representing 3.2 percent of the more than 25 million population, have been mistreated since colonization, in addition to being dispossessed of their lands and systematically discriminated against by institutions, organizations and society. EFE


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