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Sydney lights up the path to reconciliation

Shannan Dodson representing Recognise at the 2013 Garma Festival. Photo by Michael Amendolia

As part of National Reconciliation Week, the Vivid Path to the Future installation will be on display at Sydney University from May 27 to June 3, two pivotal dates in Australian history.

The first date marks the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which eliminated two discriminatory references from the Constitution.

The second commemorates the High Court’s Mabo decision, which overturned the concept of terra nullius to acknowledge native title.

Despite these historical triumphs, the Constitution still contains two clauses which deny Indigenous Australians equal recognition.

Section 25 gives authority to ban people from voting on the basis of race, whereas Section 51 (xxvi) allows the government to make racially specific laws if it deems it necessary.

This inequity has inspired the Recognise movement, which is pushing to remove racial discrimination from the Constitution.

Recognise spokesperson Shannan Dodson, a Yawuru woman living in Camperdown, explains that the Constitution disregards over 40,000 years of indigenous history.

“We are one of the only countries in the world with a Constitution that doesn’t acknowledge its first peoples,” she said.

In 2012, the Expert Panel made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders and parliamentarians established a case for removing the offending constitutional provisions, but their recommendations can only be adopted following a federal referendum.

In a bid to ensure every Australian makes an informed vote, Recognise has already attracted more than 185,000 supporters nationwide.

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, is one such supporter. She believes that “enshrining the principles of equality and non-discrimination” by removing the racist provisions will help towards advancing democracy in Australia.

“At its core, constitutional reform is about reconciling our past, building a solid foundation for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationship and looking ahead to a united future,” Ms Triggs said.

The Wirriga society at USYD will celebrate NRW with a free screening of John Pilger’s documentary Utopia, a critical investigation of the Indigenous experience. Wirriga president Kyol Blakeney urges everyone to see the film.

“It breaks down a lot of myths and stereotypes that have been used to undermine Aboriginal culture. We need to dispel the myths held by people who don’t understand what indigenous Australians go through on a daily basis.”

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