Updating Constitution

COFFS HARBOUR will tomorrow be the focus of a public consultation with national implications.

The meeting is part of discussions on how our Constitution can be changed to recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

A prime ministerial panel, comprising indigenous and non-indigenous community leaders, legal experts and politicians, has been criss-crossing the nation to gauge opinions and stimulate discussion.

Panel members Alison Page (an award-winning Aboriginal designer and cultural planner) and Janelle Saffin (Labor's federal Member for Page) will host the consultation at the Coffs Harbour Showground's Norm Jordan function rooms from 1pm to 3pm.

As well as participating directly, you can also write a letter, email a submission or contribute on the website at www.youmeunity.org.au.

"When the Constitution was drafted in the 1890s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not participate," a panel spokeswoman said.

"In fact the only mention of them was exclusion. Many Australians now believe the Constitution should be changed to reflect the society we live in today.

"From the 40 public consultations held to date, there has been very strong support across the community for constitutional recognition."

A recent survey of members of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples found 88% of the 630 respondents regarded constitutional recognition as a top priority.

A second survey of 2100 members of Generation One found that 98% wanted formal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

Over the next month more public consultations and other meetings will be held across the country.

The panel will report to the Federal Government in December with proposed options for change which are likely to have the best chance of success at a referendum.

To succeed, the referendum must attract the support of a majority vote nationally, and a majority of votes in a majority of states.



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