National conversation begins on recognising Indigenous Australians

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 19 May 2011

Oxfam Australia today welcomed the start of the national dialogue to formally recognise the special and unique place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold in our nation.

The panel leading the national discussion on recognition of Indigenous Australians has today released a discussion paper that marks the start of its consultation process.

Oxfam Australia policy advisor Andrew Meehan said it was an important step that could pave the way for a referendum on the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

“The discussion paper signals the start of this important national conversation. It outlines ideas for change and provides an opportunity for the public to engage with the process.

“As a human rights based organisation, Oxfam has seen the major improvements in people’s health and development that can occur when their rights and equality are recognised.”

The Australian Government, the Opposition, the Australian Greens and the federal independents all support recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the constitution.

A recent Newspoll survey found that 75 per cent of Australians support some kind of constitutional reform to recognise Indigenous Australians.

“There is a mood for change and a general recognition that this is something we must do,” Mr Meehan said. “The process itself can also help build the relationships needed to move towards a reconciled nation.”

The panel is due to make recommendations to the Government in December 2011 on options to change the constitution that could be put to the Australian people at a referendum.

The discussion paper, resources and a schedule of public consultations can be accessed online at

People are being encouraged to participate in this national conversation in a number of ways – by attending a consultation meeting, by writing a letter or email or lodging a written submission.

Oxfam Australia has been working for more than 30 years to improve opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise their rights, and is an active member of the Close the Gap campaign for Indigenous health inequality.

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795.