In May this year, the Urbis Economic and Social Advisory team was thrilled to be engaged by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to support the Referendum Council in developing their recommendations for constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Our work summarised the findings of a public submission process hosted by the Referendum Council, to explore the level of support for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in response to the Council’s Discussion Paper. A total of 1,111 submissions were received, via a structured online survey with opportunity to provide detailed comment, as well as free form written submissions. This work, appended to the Council’s final report to the Prime Minister, was publicly released yesterday.
Our analysis found a very strong level of support for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with nine out of ten submissions in favour. Only 8% indicated they did not support the move, while 2% of submissions were unsure of their position. The strong support for recognition was based on a desire to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples acknowledged as Australia’s First Peoples, with an ongoing set of rights based on that legacy.
In addition to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution, there was also hope the recognition process would meet a broader need for modernising the Constitution – to remove outdated and prejudicial concepts, to stop racial discrimination and to remove redundant sections. Three key suggestions for substantive reform emerged when investigating overall preferences for change, including the call for a Treaty/ Treaties or an agreement-making power, a clear desire for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a stronger voice on Indigenous affairs, and Reform via a Declaration of Recognition also received some support. These calls for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice in parliament and a Declaration closely reflect the key recommendations of the Council’s report released yesterday.