I learned something this week about my country that I find a bit disquieting. Maybe I should have already known but it was news to me that there is no formal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people in our Constitution. I took a look around and sure enough it turns out this is true. There has been discussion about a formal referendum to try and change this but it is currently shelved.
We have come a long way since the 1967 Referendum however there remains ambiguity and the possibility that bad decisions could be made “in the public interest” still remains. The overall statistics around Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders are not good in many areas:
- Indigenous Australians make up 28% of the total prison population
- Indigenous males born in 2005-2007 are likely to live to 67.2 years, about 11.5 years less than a non-Indigenous male (who could expect to live to 78.7 years)
- An Indigenous female born in 2005-2007 is likely to live to 72.9 years, which is almost 10 years less than a non-Indigenous woman (82.6 years)
- Babies born to Indigenous women are more likely to die in their first year than those born to non-Indigenous women
So what would formal recognition do to these statistics? Absolutely nothing and when I read these numbers I am appalled and we certainly need to do something substantial as a nation to try and change it. The formal recognition may only be a symbolic change but it is a symbol worth pursuing.
George Williams, Professor of Law at the University of NSW wrote about this recently and he makes some excellent points (much better than I ever could) and I don’t see why this couldn’t happen sooner rather than later. If you want to learn more go to You Me Unity and get involved.
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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/animm/2300315147/”>animm</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>