Constitutional Recognition of First Nations Peoples

The Federation of Australian Buddhist Buddhist Councils supports the recognition of First Nations peoples in the Constitution as requested in the Uluru Statement.

Reconciliation and redressing past wrongs require a comprehensive response: symbolic recognition in the Constitution, effective structures for consultation and decision making through the Voice, as well as practical moves towards addressing the problems outlined in the Closing the Gap and other reports.

There are uncertainties about the effect of constitutional change and how effective the Voice will be in addressing Indigenous disadvantage. However we are reassured about the approach being taken because:

– The proposal comes from an exhaustive process of consultation within First Nations communities, and we understand a large majority of First Nations people support it;
– The preponderance of expert opinion does not anticipate legal problems arising from the constitutional changes;
establishing the Voice first provides a strong foundation for Treaty and Truth Telling;
– Being able to advise the executive arm of government ensures that the Voice will be able to influence the detailed design and implementation of government programs.

There have been questions about how effective the new arrangements will be for addressing Indigenous disadvantage. Time will tell. However this is a test for all of us, and Truth Telling and Treaty will give us the opportunity to lead Australia to a more cohesive, stronger and prouder nation.

With this in mind, we encourage the Government to make priority of addressing current problems highlighted in the Closing the Gaps report, in parallel with pursuing constitutional reform.

Gawaine Powell Davies
President, Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils