Pearson pushes for stand-alone recognition
Indigenous leader Noel Pearson wants a separate declaration of Aboriginal recognition as well as any changes to the Australian constitution.
Mr Person has backed a proposal put forward by lawyers Julian Leeser and Damien Freeman that a separate recognition document be combined with proposed constitutional amendments to recognise Indigenous Australians.
It would mean that Australians vote on a 300-word historical and aspirational statement in a future referendum, which would be similar to the US Declaration of Independence.
The idea is aimed at placating constitutional conservatives, who fear that changes to the constitution would have unintentional legal consequences.
Mr Leeser, former executive director of the Menzies Research Centre, says he is one of the constitutional conservatives with concerns.
“Referenda fail when they do not engage with constitutional conservatives,” Mr Lesser has told the ABC.
“So we wanted to come up with a proposal that would provide a more generous form of recognition that wouldn't have any of the downsides that putting symbolic or historical matters would do in the Australian constitution.
“It's a heavily contested space and the best thing that the declaration of recognition does in this space, is that it really, culturally, in people's hearts and minds through repetition at those great national events, places Indigenous people at the front of our thoughts and places them at the centre of our policy making.”
Noel Pearson, founder of the Cape York Institute, said such a declaration would allow a greater level of recognition than the constitution could.
“It can in fact be a more handsome document. It could in fact have more poetry than a kind of miserable reading of a few sentences about acknowledging the Indigenous history of this country,” he said.
Mr Pearson imagines a declaration that could be recited in schools, at national events and weave its way into the national fabric.
But he warned that it would only work in combination with a referendum to remove discriminatory provisions within the constitution.
One of the discriminatory passages that have been highlighted is Constitution Act Section 25, which allows for an entire race to be excluded from voting.
Similarly, Section 51-XXVI allows Parliament to make laws specifically for “people of any race... for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws”.