Media Releases

Zali Steggall calls for Indigenous Recognition in the Constitution


3 June 2020

Today, 3 June, marks the 28th anniversary of the Eddie Koiko Mabo’s victory in the High Court overturning terra nullius and obtaining land rights in this country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is also the official end of National Reconciliation Week for 2020, it has been a huge week for Indigenous people and minority groups. I was buoyed to see the number of individuals and businesses celebrating #NRW2020 and sharing the sentiment of #InThisTogether2020, acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which they were working across the nation.  

Despite such positive sentiment online, just over a week ago, we learnt of the destruction of yet another key historical site in the name of profit and greed. Rio Tinto detonated explosives in a cave on the land of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People's containing significant Indigenous artefacts proving the existence of people in that place for 46,000 years.  

Looking internationally, the riots in the US surrounding the death of George Floyd during his arrest in Minneapolis, have generated a harsh reminder of police brutality of minority groups, including Indigenous people here in Australia.  Many of the recommendations from the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody were never implemented and it is estimated that hundreds more have died in custody since. I express my sympathy to the many families who have suffered through this traumatic experience. 

We have also seen distressing images of unreasonable force used by one police officer against a young Indigenous man in Sydney. Young Indigenous people are 24 times more likely than non-indigenous young people to be in detention. This must stop.  

We need a stronger voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Empowerment of our First Nations and a Voice to Parliament through the Uluru Statement is a great first step. I urge the Australian Government to support: 

  1.  Constitutional Change, enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution.  
  2. Legislative Change to establish the Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement making with Australian governments, and  
  3. Establishment of the Makarrata Commission to oversee a process of truth telling about Australia’s history and colonisation. 

As the Eddie Mabo decision showed 28 years ago change can happen against the odds. We again need urgent reform of our Constitution and the best time to start, is now.