By Sonia Waters, Aboriginal Services Director at Anglicare SA
We are the longest unbroken thread of human culture on the planet – the oldest continuing culture in the world.
Yet if you read our nations Constitution, it invites you to conclude that Australia’s history begins in 1901, or in 1788. But in fact it stretches back tens of thousands of years, through a span of time and human achievement almost unfathomable in length. And the people and cultures and songlines and intricate and sophisticated knowledge of this land and how to shape it are as much a part of Australia’s identity as the institutions of government that we inherited from Britain.
So as we look to our nation’s Constitution - that gives us our modern nationhood – how much space does it devote to that impressive and inspiring story of our origins as a nation? Not a word.
Right now, the long and unique story of Australia – the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians – is entirely missing from our founding document. Our Constitution makes more mentions of lighthouses and coinage and beacons and buoys than it does of the impressive first chapter of our nation’s story – and the people who forged it.
And beyond that deafening silence, parts of our highest legal document in this land, still gives governments the power to discriminate against groups of us based on our race. Things like the section of our Constitution that – to this very day – still says the States can ban a whole race of people from voting. Most people are surprised to learn this.
And that’s why a movement is growing. A movement of Australians of great heart and goodwill all across this land. A movement to put this right.
We need to fix that constitutional silence – the historic exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. And we need to remove the last remnants of the dismissive and discriminatory views that colonial governments had of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
When we do so, we will start to heal some very old wounds in our country. We will repair some of the damage caused by the past policies of exclusion and discrimination. And most importantly, we will lay the foundations for a more unified future together in this land. A future where we can all be proud of our long history and our unique and shared heritage as Australians.
And so it is our generation of Australians that has both the responsibility – but also the great privilege – of putting this right.
But we can only achieve this if people like you become part of the quest to get us to this referendum sooner rather than later.
I’m told that church groups and organisations such as AnglicareSA played a significant role in standing in solidarity with Aboriginal people and adding to the enormous ground swirl that saw the success of the 1967 Referendum. We are calling on your support again.
So I ask you to consider what you will do – to help bring about this great moment for our nation? What can you do in the next week, or month, or year – to propel us to that referendum?
If you haven’t already, will you sign up today at recognise.org.au?
Since May last year, recognition campaigners, like me have been travelling our vast country in an epic relay to build further public awareness and support for this cause.
Along the way, we’ve heard powerful calls for recognition.
We’ve heard voices like that of Gumatj elder GALARRWUY YUNUPINGU who told us he wanted constitutional recognition, to bring my people in from the cold, bring us into the nation.”
How can we hear those words and not be called to this moment in history?
Together, we can achieve this great goal for our nation. Together, we can get to that great day in our country’s story.
A day when Australians wrote our long history into our founding document – and wrote the next chapter of our story together.
Our children and future generations will inherit our nation’s constitution –– let’s fix it now, and not leave this work to them. Australia prides itself on being a place of fairness. Let our children and grandchildren know that when we had the opportunity to advance Australia fair, we did.