The next step towards constitutional recognition

Reconciliation Australia welcomes the release of the interim report from the Joint Select Committee for Constitutional Recognition as an important step in the long journey towards constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and towards reconciliation more broadly.

The Committee received 381 authorised submissions and heard evidence at hearings around Australia since it was appointed in March.

The high level of interest in the inquiry is yet another indication of the broad public support for progress on the issues under consideration by the Committee and of the widespread desire for the Australian Parliament to make real progress after years of political drift.

Reconciliation Australia is encouraged by the Committee’s acknowledgement of the frustration caused by the length of time taken to advance constitutional recognition and its commitment to secure cross party support for a way forward.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have participated in good faith in each of the inquiries leading up to this point, including the Referendum Council Dialogues (2017), the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2015), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act of Recognition Review Panel (2014) and the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012).

Each of these processes was designed to identify and forge agreement on a proposal to take forward to a referendum on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

However, none of the calls or aspirations outlined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in previous inquiries have been adequately addressed by our nation’s parliament to date.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the Committee must seek to rectify this history of inaction and address the unfinished business of reconciliation.

“What we need is for the Committee to produce a clear path forward in relation to constitutional recognition,” she said.

“This process cannot finish with the delivery of the report. We need the committee to forge a path for the parliament to negotiate and deliver on the reasonably held aspirations and expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Ms Mundine said the significant public engagement with the inquiry showed that Australians have not given up on the proposals put forward by the Referendum Council.

“The lack of progress on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is not due to an absence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations being put to Australian governments,” she said.

“And it’s also not the result of a lack of support for constitutional change among the broader community.

“Despite the disappointment felt at the rejection of the Voice to Parliament proposal last October, the level of engagement with the inquiry shows that people remain hopeful the Committee will progress constitutional reform and complementary measures to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a genuine say in the matters that affect our lives.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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