There has been some recently published commentary and opinion that Reconciliation Australia, through the Recognise campaign, had been pursuing a minimalist model for change. This is incorrect.
The Recognise campaign did not advocate for a specific model of constitutional reform. Instead, the campaign worked to bring conversations about constitutional reform and recognition into the mainstream, and engaged the broader community on why reform is needed.
Established by Reconciliation Australia in 2012, in response to recommendations of the Expert Panel on Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution, the Recognise campaign had a very specific focus: to raise awareness across the Australian community of the need to change the Constitution, in advance of a referendum.
The campaign raised the profile of the issue with millions of Australians becoming aware and supportive of the need for change. Independent polling showed that, in the five years of the Recognise campaign, awareness levels rose from 30% to over 75% of the population. These levels were higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents from 60% to 84%.
By the time the campaign concluded in 2017, it had attracted the support of more than 318,000 Australians from all walks of life. More than 160 community and corporate organisations partnered with Recognise to support change, and more than 18,000 Australians took part in the Journey to Recognition around the country. The Journey covered more than 38,000 km over a three-year period and held 386 community meetings as it toured across the country.
Recognise, which was led by Joint Campaign Directors – one Indigenous and one not – maintained at most times an equal number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous staff. Reconciliation Australia again acknowledges and thanks all who worked for, and with, Recognise for their commitment and professionalism.
The Recognise awareness campaign concluded when the Federal Government ceased its funding in 2017.
As Australia prepares to take the next step of supporting the Statement from the Heart, we are confident that the awareness and support levels raised by the Recognise campaign will be a huge asset going forward.
Reconciliation Australia remains committed to supporting reforms based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wishes, including the calls enshrined in the Statement from the Heart.