A Morrison Government proposal to recognise Australia’s First Peoples in the constitution has been broadly welcomed by key Church organisations.
In a National Press Club address on Wednesday, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt pledged to “bring forward a consensus option” during the current term of Parliament.
Mr Wyatt said the Government was committed to Indigenous constitutional change and would design the model with First Australians, having allocated $7 million towards the process.
John Lochowiak, chair of the peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body in the Catholic Church, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), said: “It is heartening to see a bipartisan approach to discussion on this issue. We, as Australians, need to work together on this. It is the only way forward.
“Whatever the outcome that is decided, the result has to be meaningful change in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Craig Arthur, national administrator for NATSICC, said the Council supported any initiative to strengthen the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“NATSICC believes it is important that a strong focus is placed on empowering all people within all communities,” he said.
“However, representatives would like to see more details on what is proposed.”
Christopher Ohlsen, executive secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, said the Church welcomes the Government’s intentions for a referendum and for placing a timeline on that process.
“We will await further details about the proposed referendum and will then engage in a process of consultation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters,” he said.
NATSICC and the bishops acknowledged the need to respect the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia by giving voice to all perspectives.
The dignity and value of the individual, a core tenet of Catholic Social Teaching, is central to the issue of acknowledgement and recognition, those groups agreed.
With thanks to the ACBC.