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AMA supports recognition of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia's constitution

26 Mar 2013

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the AMA supports moves to recognise Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and their cultures in Australia’s Constitution.

Dr Hambleton said that recognising Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution could help improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

“The AMA is proud to add its voice to a movement that has widespread community backing and bipartisan commitment,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Concerted action to recognise Australia’s unique Indigenous cultures and remove sections of our Constitution that still allow race discrimination could help to tackle health inequality.

“From our long engagement with Aboriginal communities and health leaders, the AMA knows the importance of strong culture and identity to people’s health.

“Taking this step to end discrimination and acknowledge our country’s Indigenous cultures and languages could help to bolster physical and mental wellbeing among Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders.

“We still have much work to do as a nation to close the gap in life expectancy and the overall health of Indigenous Australians compared to the rest of the community.

“Constitutional recognition would be an another important chapter in efforts to close the gap.

“A referendum to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution could be a powerful moment of unity for all Australians,” Dr Hambleton said.

Background:

At a political level, there is wide multi-party support for constitutional recognition.

The Government supports the recommendations of its Expert Panel and believes the Constitution should be changed to:

  • include a statement of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their unique history, culture and connection to this land;
  • remove references to race, reflecting the nation’s fundamental belief in the importance of equality and non-discrimination; and
  • acknowledge that additional effort is needed to help close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, recently proposed a timetable for a draft Constitutional amendment to recognise the first Australians. Under the Coalition’s proposed timetable, a draft amendment to acknowledge the first Australians in the Constitution would be released within 12 months of this year’s election should the Coalition win government.

There is also strong backing from a broad cross-section of organisations in the Australian community – including peak Indigenous groups, churches, business, unions, and community organisations.

People can find out more about Constitutional recognition atwww.recognise.org.au

26 March 2013


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Published: 26 Mar 2013