Panel named - constitutional recognition for Aborigines

Panel

Co-chairs

Professor Patrick Dodson
Mark Leibler

Panel members

Graham Bradley
Timmy 'Djawa' Burarrwanga
Henry Burmester
Fred Chaney
Associate Professor Megan Davis
Glenn Ferguson
Lauren Ganley
Professor Marcia Langton
Bill Lawson
Alison Page
Noel Pearson

Parliamentary members

Rob Oakeshott
Janelle Saffin
Senator Rachel Siewert
Ken Wyatt

Ex-officio members

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda
The National Congress co-chairs - Sam Jeffries and Josephine Bourne

Joe Kelly The Australian December 23, 2010

Noel Pearson, Mick Gooda, Pat Dodson, Marcia Langton and Liberal MP Ken Wyatt have been included in a select group that will work towards constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians.

Julia Gillard announced the membership today of the expert panel which the government wants to lead the process of constitutional recognition for Aborigines.

The Prime Minister plans a referendum to recognise indigenous Australians be held at or before the next federal election.

The 20-member panel will be chaired by Professor Patrick Dodson and Mark Leibler and will also include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and representatives from the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

A statement released by the Prime Minister, Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin and Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the members were "accomplished and respected individuals who will be responsible for developing options to recognise the unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution".

"They will also help generate community support for the proposal."

The government said members were chosen following public nominations and consultation with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, the Greens and federal independents.

Parliamentary figures on the panel include NSW independent Rob Oakeshott, Labor MP Janelle Saffin, Greens senator Rachel Siewert and the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt.

The government said the panel would develop options for constitutional change and consider a "range of views and will propose options for change which have the best chance of success at a referendum".

The panel will meet for the first time early next year and report to the government by the end of 2011.

The government hopes the panel will lead a "wide-ranging national public consultation and engagement program throughout 2011 to build consensus on the recognition of indigenous people in the constitution".

To succeed, a referendum must attract the support of a national majority and a majority of votes in the majority of states.

The membership of the expert panel incorporates a range of divergent views.

Following the government's establishment of the panel in November, Professor Langton called for a more significant recognition of indigenous Australians than something "lite" in the preamble to the Constitution.

Professor Langton said a referendum that only recognised indigenous Australians in the preamble would be "paternalistic" and instead called for a substantive section to be added to the document, according her people full recognition.

But Mr Wyatt has said he would only accept a change to the Constitution that recognised indigenous Australians in the preamble.

He rejected Professor Langton's proposal, arguing it would create a divide "that I do not support personally".