Before settlers moved to Australia and turned it into a country of their own, the indigenous people, also known as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples, inhabited the land. However, once the settlers moved in, things changed for the indigenous people, and they have suffered because of it (something the government has since apologized for). Australia’s current Constitution does not give great recognition to these people; however, an Australian panel is looking to change that to include the role the Aborigines play in Australia, according to CNN.
Currently, the panel- “which included Aboriginal leaders, business executives, legal experts and members of the main political parties”- is looking to repeal two provisions: “one that allows states to disqualify people of ‘all persons of any race’ from voting at elections; and another that authorizes parliament to make ‘special laws’ for ‘the people of any race’.” Both these laws have racist connotations and go against the international law of non-discrimination.
These suggestions have been widely accepted by the government and its opposition.
According to CNN, the panel is also making the recommendations of adding a new section to the Constitution giving Parliament the power to “make laws ‘for the peace, order and good government’ of Australia’ with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” and creating another section that would prohibit racial discrimination but allow measures to be taken to protect groups.
However, these recommendations have raised concern that it would give too much power to the courts to interpret them as they wish.
The government will take the panel’s recommendations into consider before deciding what to do, according to CNN. They have promised to hold a referendum on this by the next general election.
I can see where there is hesitation in allowing the government to make laws to keep peace and order and allow measures to be taken to protect groups; however, I also feel these laws could serve a great purpose if tailored correctly. Indigenous people have rights to, and these rights are often forgotten about or abused at the hands of those in power. If the government is willing to accept responsibility and acknowledge that, and try to change it for the future, then that is great- as long as the new power is not abused or overused.
It is not coincidence that indigenous people around the world, like the Native Americans in America, are inherently poorer and are mistreated in comparison to their white counterparts. No, it has been systematically created this way over time, and it is about time they are acknowledged as equals. After all, they inhabited the land long before any settlers did.