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Professor calling for more than preamble

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The Gillard Government will be told today that indigenous people must get more than just a preamble in the constitution.

The proposed change to the constitution to recognise indigenous people must prevent Parliament passing racially discriminatory laws, Professor Mick Dodson says.

He is also calling for a referendum on the proposed change to the constitution to be held before the next election.

Professor Dodson will deliver a speech at Parliament House today where he will insist that the constitutional change is substantive, rather than just a passing reference in a pre-amble.

"This is a very significant step in our nationhood and we should take it very seriously," he told The Canberra Times. "My minimum position is that it cant just be recognition in a new preamble, it also has to be some substantive thing, at the very least removing the racist elements of the constitution."

Professor Dodson is director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the ANU. His lecture comes as a panel established by Prime Minister Julia Gillard takes soundings across the country on amending the Constitution to recognise indigenous Australians.

The panel will report to the Government by December on options for constitutional change.

Options being considered include recognition in a preamble to the constitution, repealing provisions seen as racist, new clauses to ensure racial equality and drawing up new powers for the Federal Government to redress historical disadvantage.

The Government has promised to hold a national referendum on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on or before the next federal election.

The campaign to change the constitution recently cleared its first big hurdle when most members of the new body for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders the National Congress of Australias First Peoples backed the move.

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