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Aboriginal participation before recognition

  • 09 July 2018


For Indigenous Australians, the effort to obtain recognition within Australia's constitutional framework has been a long-standing struggle. During that time, Indigenous advocates and leaders have continuously advocated for their full entitlement to self-determination rights, which seek the political and cultural empowerment of Indigenous colonised peoples.

However, Indigenous Australians are yet to experience full inclusiveness and access to the exercise of their liberal democratic rights, even as Australian citizens. In particular, there has been a lack of meaningful progress in increasing Indigenous political participation through voting and candidacy in Australian politics. That type of Indigenous democratic liberation is important both to Indigenous cultural survival and to Indigenous political advancement and standing within politics.

Where tensions arise is when the Australian system, a democratic liberal and representative regime, limits rights of its citizens unequally in both direct and indirect ways. It is only when the Australian government becomes fully compliant with its adherence to rule of law theory — equality before the law and 'responsible government' — that we will start to see change. We are yet to see such compliance when it comes to Indigenous Australians and their rights to self-determination.

A primary example of how these rights have been limited historically is the way in which they have only been recognised within government agency policies. The issue with that, aside from the lack of legislative formalisation of those rights, is that those policies are typically drafted and rolled out by non-Indigenous public servants. Further, restrictions are placed on those rights as a result of the lack of consultation between those drafting the policy and Indigenous Australians.

Such issues were noted in the Uluru Statement From the Heart, along with other circumstances where the application of current constitutional provisions have led to racially discriminatory laws.

Despite our Prime Minister's rejection of the proposal of an entrenched Makaratta Treaty Commission at the end of 2017, there is still hope for other proposals contained within the Uluru Statement to get up. There is a feeling right now that politicians and the like are gravitating to a political cosmopolitanism mindset; the view that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter what their citizenship status or other affiliations happen to be.

As such the time seems ripe to continue finalising procedures following the Uluru Convention and Statement from the Heart so that those aspirations can become our new realities. This simply entails progressing with the final stages