Annual Gathering reignites debate on constitutional recognition

Constitutional Recognition

By Marnie Cruickshank

Canberra's Old Parliament House will this weekend host the annual Gathering of First National and Peoples.

Gamilaroi man, and founder of the Sovereign Union, Mr Ghillar Anderson, is preparing to lead discussions on a variety of issues including First Nations People's sovereignty, and the government's proposed constitutional changes.

"The Sovereign Union is about bringing people together to share our experiences and get a way forward as a collective group of people", says Mr Anderson.

The proposed changes are being promoted through a government-funded campaign, 'Recognise', which is currently making its way around the nation, reaching Brisbane and Logan last week.

While both the coalition government, the opposition and Greens are in support of the policy, as well as high-profile Aboriginal academics, such as Marcia Langton and Megan Davis, protests of multiple First Nations Peoples against constitutional reform continue.

While most agree that s.25, a part of the Constitution that allows States to ban voters based on race, should be removed, the more complex concerns about the reform relate to s. 51(xxvi).

As the debate about the legitimacy of recognition through the proposed amendments continue, there exists the fear of constitutional change having unintended legal consequences, such as an impact on Native Title Act 1993.

This is impounded upon by the concern of constitutional change being used to bypass a treaty.

"We need to understand what Recognise does to us and what the white man is trying to do to us and a lot of our people are not fully aware of what they are doing.

They have to look at and understand the hidden consequences and hidden agenda of this campaign", says Anderson.

Australia is now the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples make up three per cent of the population, even if all were opposed to constitutional recognition they would not be able to override a 'Yes' vote.