More than a century after its constitution was drafted, Australia is edging closer to formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the nation’s first people. Changing the constitution to recognise the nation’s first people is not about politics, says Mike Baird, premier of New South Wales – Australia’s biggest state. It’s about righting a wrong. “It is an important part of who we are, it is an important part of our history,” he says. Earlier, this month, Mr Baird became the first state or territory leader to publicly back a federal government campaign – started by the previous Labor government and adopted by coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott – to reverse the historical exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people from Australia’s constitution. To do that, the public would have to vote in a referendum.
It was a timely statement. On Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged to hold the referendum in 2017. One has been promised since 2010 – but getting there could still take years and involve a fraught debate about racial discrimination and whether such recognition really benefits indigenous Australians.
Mr Abbott said he hoped the vote would be held in May 2017 – on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that approved constitutional amendments relating to the country’s indigenous people. But he wanted to be confident the referendum would succeed.
“I do not want it to fail because every Australian would be the loser. It is more important to get this right than to try to rush it through,” he told a dinner of supporters on constitutional change in Sydney.
Full Article: BBC News – Australia eyes indigenous recognition vote.