Constitution should recognise settlers stole Australia: Dodson

ABC Lateline Broadcast: 5th August 2011

Mick Dodson wants the constitution to acknowledge that Australia was taken from Indigenous people without their consent.

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: A senior Indigenous leader has called for constitutional change to recognise that European settlement stole land from Aborigines. The Prime Minister's established a panel to examine a change in the constitution that would give Indigenous Australians recognition as the country's original inhabitants.

But Indigenous leader, Mick Dodson, says a referendum must go further.

MICK DODSOHN, NATIONAL CENTRE FOR INDIGENOUS STUDIES: It must also be acknowledged and recognised that the place was taken from us without our consent. And that was wrong and that question has never, ever been addressed.

ALI MOORE: He also called for the referendum to take place before the next election.

Professor calling for more than preamble

Ross Peake The Canberra Times 5th Aug, 2011

The Gillard Government will be told today that indigenous people must get more than just a preamble in the constitution.
The proposed change to the constitution to recognise indigenous people must prevent Parliament passing racially discriminatory laws, Professor Mick Dodson says.

He is also calling for a referendum on the proposed change to the constitution to be held before the next election.

Professor Dodson will deliver a speech at Parliament House today where he will insist that the constitutional change is substantive, rather than just a passing reference in a pre-amble.

"This is a very significant step in our nationhood and we should take it very seriously," he told The Canberra Times. "My minimum position is that it cant just be recognition in a new preamble, it also has to be some substantive thing, at the very least removing the racist elements of the constitution."

Professor Dodson is director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the ANU. His lecture comes as a panel established by Prime Minister Julia Gillard takes soundings across the country on amending the Constitution to recognise indigenous Australians.

The panel will report to the Government by December on options for constitutional change.

Options being considered include recognition in a preamble to the constitution, repealing provisions seen as racist, new clauses to ensure racial equality and drawing up new powers for the Federal Government to redress historical disadvantage.

The Government has promised to hold a national referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on or before the next federal election.

The campaign to change the constitution recently cleared its first big hurdle when most members of the new body for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders the National Congress of Australias First Peoples backed the move.

Get Facebook users into constitution debate

AAP Herald Sun August 05, 2011

Australians should take back control of their constitution with regular referendums held away from the heat of election campaigns, former Australian of the Year Mick Dodson says.

On constitutional recognition of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Professor Dodson said a referendum to decide the question should be a single-issue poll.

"We're not broke, we can afford separate referendums," the legal academic said in Canberra.

"We should get in the habit of saying mid-term, between general elections, `we're having a referendum on X or Y,' so we can all think about it rationally and sanely without some hysterical politician chasing you for your vote."

He said it would be "dumb" to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous people at the same time as one about including local government in the constitution.

In that event, neither proposition would get up, he said.

"I won't accept arguments of practicality and economy because ... I don't think those sorts of questions should inhibit us in really bringing our constitution back to life, getting it out of the 1890s and getting it into the 21st century," he said.

"I think we should take our constitution back, take it back from the politicians and take it back from the court, and say, `Look, we want these things done because they're decent and proper things to do and it's about our identity, about us, we Australians.'"

Prof Dodson said it was time debate on constitutional change was taken up by the younger generation.

"We should be examining this instrument and saying it's time to bring this into the Facebook and Twitter generation."

A panel of experts is examining how the constitution could be amended to recognise indigenous people and what level of support the community has for the idea.

It will report to the federal government by December.