Indigenous involvement vital in plan for constitutional recognition
Specially-appointed indigenous parliamentary commissioners are needed to oversee the push to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution, the government funded campaign for change says.
At a hearing of the joint select committee examining the proposed changes, the deputy director of the You, Me, Unity campaign, Tanya Hosch, acknowledged it was an ''unusual'' proposal but one that was necessary to maintain the involvement of indigenous people.
"The inclusion of the first peoples in every part of the process of developing the model for consideration by all Australians is an important principle,'' Ms Hosch told the committee on Wednesday.
''It offers a model of genuine partnership and ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' views are never far from the deliberations of the committee."
Ms Hosch said the commissioners could have some of the same powers as MPs and senators and have greater status than other advisers.
The move was necessary, she said, because Parliament was overwhelmingly made up of non indigenous people.
"The example of the Parliament working with additional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the committee, beyond an advisory committee at another table, can set the right example and strongest demonstration of indigenous and non-indigenous people working together in the best interests of Australia's future," Ms Hosch said.
In 1984, a Senate commission looking into judicial conduct appointed two retired Supreme Court judges as parliamentary commissioners and gave them the power to seek information from witnesses and to make their own reports to parliament via the committee.
In September last year, the federal government postponed plans for a referendum to formally recognise indigenous people in the constitution until there was more community awareness and support.
A joint select committee is now considering the act of recognition that Labor proposed as an interim replacement for a referendum.
The bill, which was introduced on the last sitting day of last year, includes a statement of Parliament's commitment to pursuing constitutional recognition and a substantive statement of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.