A Bill recognising the “unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples” has been passed by the House of Representatives.
The Bill is a step on the path to constitutional recognition. Its passage came on the fifth anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations.
The Bill received unanimous support in the House. The text of speeches by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin are provided below.
Statement from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard
Act of Recognition Passes
Australia has moved closer towards constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the Act of Recognition passing the House of Representatives today.
The Prime Minister was joined in the House by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and community leaders to mark this significant step towards a referendum.
The Bill recognises the unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This reflects wording suggested by the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whose significant report has put in place the foundations to enable us to progress constitutional recognition.
Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the National Apology.
On 13 February 2008, we said sorry to Indigenous Australians, in particular the Stolen Generations, for past wrongs.
We apologised for the pain and suffering and hurt that successive policies had inflicted on Indigenous Australians for more than two centuries.
This was the first step in building a reconciled Australia with relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.
The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution is another part of this journey.
This Australian Government is committed to meaningful constitutional reform that reflects the hopes and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Bill passed today includes a sunset date of two years to allow the campaign for change to continue to build momentum and ensure the focus remains on the ultimate goal of a successful referendum. [Read more...]