Calls to rewrite our constitution

Illawarra Aboriginal people have embraced the chance to have their say on whether Australia should update its constitution to recognise the first Australians.Delegates from the region's Aboriginal communities met in Dapto last week, to take part in a national conversation about the need to alter the country's founding document.Illawarra Aboriginal Community Based Working Group facilitator Veronica Bird, who helped arrange the forum, supported the push for change."The Australian Constitution is the blueprint on how Australia is governed and changes could have significant implications on the future of indigenous people," she said."Some people may prefer a treaty over changes to the constitution, but that's what we need to work out."The forum was led by Bill Lawson, a member of the expert panel appointed by the Federal Government to engage with the community and provide advice on the options available to formally recognise indigenous Australians.Mr Lawson said support for constitutional change had been overwhelmingly positive so far."'If you think about it, there is a very strong emotional wave running across the country since the apology," he said.The Australian Constitution does not recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and it was not until the landmark referendum in 1967 that they were even included in the national census.Mr Lawson said the political will now existed to move towards positive recognition.Throsby MP Stephen Jones agreed, saying the constitution should recognise Australia had the world's oldest continuous culture."There's broad bi-partisan support ... to recognise indigenous people, and some might say it's 110 years too late," he said.About 20 people attended last week's event. Several said any constitutional reform should be accompanied by practical changes to help Aboriginal people.Submissions to the panel close on September 30.

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