More than 100 people attended a forum in Dapto on Friday on the issue of constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people.
Stephen Jones, Member for Throsby, and Nova Peris, Senator for the Northern Territory, took questions for over an hour on what form such recognition would take, how and when a referendum on the issue would be conducted, and how it would benefit Aboriginal people, in a town hall-style meeting at the Dapto Ribbonwood Centre.
‘‘The constitution should acknowledge our whole history, and if we don’t do this, we don’t know who we are as Australians,’’ Mr Jones said.
‘‘This is about removing racist provisions in the constitution, drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘never again’.’’
Mr Jones said he hoped a referendum on recognising Aboriginal people in the constitution would be held before the 2016 federal election.
‘‘This is the beginning of the conversation.’’
Ms Peris said it would be ‘‘an international embarrassment’’ if such a referendum failed to pass, calling on all Australians to support the vote.
‘‘It’s time Australians asked themselves, do you have a problem with Aboriginal people? If not, you have to vote yes,’’ she said.
‘‘This has been like a record going round and round. It is disgraceful.’’
Aunty Val Mulcahy, from Wingecaribee, said the issue was far more than a symbolic recognition.
‘‘We won’t settle for anything else. We are sick of promises,’’ she said.
‘‘We need to push ahead with recognition for the first people. It is important because discrimination is rife, and this will lead to other discussions.’’
Abbott under fire: 'defining moment'
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's comment that the arrival of the First Fleet was the defining moment in Australian history has earned a rebuke from indigenous leaders.
The chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, has told ABC Radio that white settlement was "a disastrous defining moment for indigenous people".
Mr Abbott made the remarks at the opening of a history exhibition at the National Museum in Canberra on Friday, repeatedly stating that he believed the arrival of the First Fleet "was the defining moment in the history of this continent".
"It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world. It determined our language, our law and our fundamental values. Yes, it did dispossess and for a long time marginalise Indigenous people," Mr Abbott said.
"As Noel Pearson frequently reminds us, modern Australia has an important Indigenous and multicultural character. Still it's British settlement that has most profoundly shaped the country that we are."
The head of the Stolen Generation Council for NSW, Matilda House, told the ABCs AM program on Saturday: "I can't fathom how a ship or a boat sailed into Sydney Habour can overtake the 60,000 years before."