Constitutional Recognition of First Nations

Constitutional Recognition of First Nations

As many of you would be aware a special sitting of the NSW Legislative Assembly was convened yesterday for the introduction of the Constitution Amendment (Recognition of Aboriginal People) Bill.

The Bill will amend the Constitution Act, 108 years after its first passing, to formally recognise us as the first peoples and first nations of NSW.

It will recognise that Aboriginal people have a spiritual, social, cultural and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters and have made, and continue to make, a unique and lasting contribution to the identity of New South Wales.

This, I'm sure you will agree, is long overdue.

It was a great honour for me as Chairwoman of NSWALC to take my place on the floor of the Parliament yesterday and to speak to the introduction of the Bill by Premier Kristina Kenneally, particularly in the presence of fellow Councillors, Uncle Charles "Chicka" Madden, and other dignitaries.

The Bill, which will enjoy the support of all parties, will, as the Premier said, enshrine a number of fundamental truths as a principle of our democratic foundation.

The truth that our people are the first inhabitants and first nations of our state; the truth of the spiritual, cultural and economic ties that bind our people to our traditional lands and waters; and the truth in the diverse and unique contributions that our many Aboriginal nations, culture and communities make to the life, the economy and the character of our state.

It is an important further step in the recognition of our rights.

The contributions from political leaders on all sides of the Parliament yesterday contained a considerable amount of history about our ongoing struggle for recognition.

I have attached the relevant section of the (uncorrected) Hansard record of yesterday's debate for your interest. I'd recommend it be circulated throughout your networks.

In closing I'd like to pay a special tribute to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Paul Lynch.

It was largely the work of Minister Lynch which brought this landmark legislation into the Parliament, a matter which deserves to be publicly acknowledged by all in the land rights network.

Bev Manton
Chairwoman
NSWALC.