20/08/2015 - National Aboriginal meeting to consider constitutional recognition and alternatives

A meeting of key Aboriginal activists will take place in Melbourne this weekend (August 22 & 23) to fully consider all proposals for Constitutional recognition and weigh them against alternative proposals. The principle the meeting will adopt when comparing the various proposals will be which best confers a benefit on Aboriginal people.

There will be a broad cross section of the Aboriginal movement present, including experienced and young activists. Some of those attending will include: 

      • Les Malezer (Butchulla), Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition;
      • Kerry Blackman (Gurang Gurang), former ATSIC Commissioner and member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, who advocates a treaty as an alternative;
      • Tauto Sansbury (Narungga), coordinator of 2014 National Freedom Summit in Alice Springs and Chair of the Narungga Nations;
      • Sol Bellear (Bundjalung), Chairman of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service;
      • Heather Sculthorpe (Pakana), CEO of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre;
      • Terry O’Shane, Aboriginal delegate to the Maritime Union of Australia and former ATSIC Commissioner;
      • Meriki Onus (Gunnai/Gunditjmara), member of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance who organised rallies that gridlocked the Melbourne CBD three times in protest against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia; and 
      • Michael Mansell (Pakana), lawyer and founding member of the Aboriginal Provisional Government.

This will be the first national Aboriginal meeting organised to consider Tony Abbott’s constitutional recognition proposal to be discussed with a delegation of Aborigines on August 20. The delegates, Pat Dodson, Noel Pearson, Kirstie Parker and Megan Davis, have been invited to brief the Melbourne meeting on the outcome of talks with the Prime Minister.

The Melbourne meeting will consider three current proposals for Constitutional recognition: a statement recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the preamble of the Constitution; Pat Dodson’s anti-discrimination measures entrenched in the constitution and Noel Pearson’s Aboriginal body to comment on federal legislation.

Alternatives to be weighed against those ideas include: designated Aboriginal seats in parliament; a treaty; a national representative body with legislative powers and control over the 25 billion dollar Aboriginal affairs budget, an Aboriginal 7th State, and amending the Native Title Act so people who cannot claim native title are compensated for the loss of native title.

The Aboriginal Provisional Government will be facilitating this meeting.

Michael Mansell 
Aboriginal Provisional Government