Sunday, 14 February 2016

Australia: Constitutional Recognition or Treaty?

Whether there should be constitutional recognition of Australia's indigenous peoples is a long-running political debate. On one hand, this kind of recognition is a clear marker of changing thinking that may continue to permeate policies, even though the terra nullius doctrine was over-turned in the 1992 Mabo decision. Some may feel that the legacy of terra nullius lives on in the failure to have Australian Constitutional recognition of indigenous peoples. But as this editorial by Celeste Liddle points out, there is some indigenous opposition to the idea of Constitutional recognition. What is wanted, Liddle  argues, is a level of recognition that transcends that which would be obtained through Constitutional inclusion.

Liddle  notes that "Australia is the only Commonwealth Nation that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous Peoples." 

And having a treaty, she argues, provides a greater form of recognition-- one of sovereignty. Liddle points out the advantages of having a treaty:  "Provisions contained within a treaty could greatly address the current disadvantages faced by many Indigenous people as the government would have obligations to fill including the obligation to consult the community on proposed legislation affecting us."

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