Indigenous Australians seek constitutional recognition as original inhabitants

Indigenous Australians seek constitutional recognition as original inhabitants

Indigenous Australians seek constitutional recognition as original inhabitants

Updated 28 May 2013, 16:23 AEST

This week is National Reconciliation Week in Australia, and this year the annual celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and tradition take on additional significance as momentum gathers for constitutional change to recognise Australia's first peoples in the country's Constitution. 

AFL legend Michael Long and Australian Opposition Leader Tony Abbott took the first steps along the ‘Journey of Recognition’ relay as it left Melbourne on Sunday. The relay will take months to travel around the country to raise awareness of the campaign to formally recognise that Indigenous Australians were living here 225 years ago when the first European settlers arrived.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be recognised in our Constitution” said Dr Tom Calma, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia. “In every other modern constitution they’re recognised, doesn’t matter whether you’re in the Americas or the Pacific you have a people who are recognised as the first peoples.”

When Captain James Cook landed on the east coast of Australia in 1770, he claimed possession of the land for Britain under the doctrine of ‘terra nullius’, meaning land belonging to no one.

National Reconciliation Week ambassador, Miranda Tapsill, urged people “to acknowledge Australia’s first people.” The star of the movie ‘The Sapphires’ said that National Reconciliation Week “is a celebratory time for people to say I know an Indigenous Australian and I think they’re fantastic,” adding that the aim of the week is “to bring everyone together”.

Hundreds of Melbournians turned up to help launch celebrations on Monday. National Reconciliation Week is celebrated each year between May 27 and June 3. Initiated in 1996, it is a time for all Australians to think about reconciling the gap between black and white Australia. It’s a time to learn about shared histories, cultures and achievements on this wide brown land of ours and to explore how every Australian can join the national reconciliation effort.

More than 500 events are planned for the week. 

See more Australian Indigenous stories from the ABC here:  http://www.abc.net.au/indigenous/

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