The Australian Constitution, Australia’s founding legal document enacted in 1901, does not mention Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and contains clauses that allow racial discrimination.
Successive federal governments have been considering changes to the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia’s First People for many years, but no progress has been made.
Given that sovereignty was never ceded by the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations of this country, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reject the legality of the Australian Constitution and have long called for Treaty/ies.
In 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered at Uluru to hold an historic First Nations National Constitutional Convention. The meeting was the culmination of a series of First Nations Regional Dialogues held across the country, organised by the Indigenous Steering Committee of the Referendum Council.
This gathering produced the Statement from the Heart, calling for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
The Federal Government initially rejected the statement. It has since formed a Joint Select Parliamentary Committee, co-chaired by Senator Pat Dodson, to consider a referendum question on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, due to report in November 2018.