The con of constitutional recognition
The con of constitutional recognition

Addressing Indigenous leaders in Yirrkala in the Northern Territory on 10 July, Kevin Rudd announced his intention to hold a referendum to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution. “I want us to agree on the question to be put to the Australian people”, he said. “No more delays, no more excuses, no more buck passing. It is time that the nation got on with this business.”

Few are being fooled by the new referendum agenda.

The annual NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) march on 12 July in Melbourne brought around 2,000 mostly Aboriginal people into the streets. Red Flag asked attendees about their thoughts on the proposed referendum, and the key issues facing Aboriginal people today.

“The referendum will not change anything, absolutely not. The Intervention in the Northern Territory needs to end, and those people who that racist policy is impacting on, they need to be listened to and given a voice, rather than those bureaucrats talking on their behalf.”

Wendy Crabbin, Wamba Wamba woman

"Things are no different from back in the days when the pastoralists took away our lands; actually things are getting worse. I honestly believe that it is getting worse. Standing up and fighting back is important. Fight and don’t give up, don’t let them win. This is our country, our land and it has been taken from us. Remember your identity, where you come from and never forget that you are Aboriginal and be proud. Stand up and be proud, all you Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

Ngarri, from Western NSW, second generation stolen

“This land was illegally occupied in the first place. If the government isn’t going to acknowledge that fact, then I don’t expect that they are going to acknowledge anything else.”

Aunty Rio, Bundjalong and Jinibara woman

“I think it’s about the land at the end of the day, the land that they are mining on. What are [they] going to do about the destruction of our land? What are [they] going to do when it’s all gone and destroyed, then are [they] going to give it back to us?”

Callum Brown, Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara and Wiradjuri man

“We are here to represent where we are from and to stand up for ourselves. It is important to stand up so that people know who we are and what our culture is and to get our rights. We are fighting for our land. The government is taking our land.”

Amelia and Sherrie, Kamilaroi clan

“We need to start associating incarceration with genocide. We need to start associating the taking of our children with genocide. We need to start associating native title/stolen land with genocide. We need to start associating sovereignty with right and the only way to successfully coexist on this continent! Fuck ‘con’stitutional inclusion of First Nations peoples!”

Young Brisbane tent embassy member

“If within two years Rudd writes Aboriginal people into the constitution, I think that it will very much extinguish the rights of Aboriginal people in terms of sovereignty… We will become part of the Australian state, and therefore we would lose the basis for treaty and we would lose the basis for land rights – it’s going to be the biggest theft in the history of Australia.”

Sharon Firebrace, Yorta Yorta woman, long-term activist and member of the stolen generation

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