Recognising Australia’s first people

October 15, 2015 by David Marlow
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The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) has hosted the first JCCV Aboriginal Constitutional Recognition Forum to help explain to the community the need for change in terms of Constitutional recognition for Australia’s first people.  

Jennifer, Tim, Leila , Shireen and John Searle

Jennifer Huppert, Tim Goodwin, Leila Gurruwiwi , Shireen Morris and John Searle

The Forum was held at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre in front of over eighty community leaders and interested community members.

The speakers included JCCV President Jennifer Huppert, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Chair John Searle, Constitutional Law Policy Advisor Shireen Morris, barrister and expert in Constitutional Law Tim Goodwin, and educator & media personality Leila Gurruwiwi.

Ms Huppert said that this was a start of a conversation within the community, and outlined the special understanding that the Jewish and Indigenous communities shared in being a minority and facing discrimination.

Ms Morris highlighted that, “Australia’s first people are not recognised in the Australian Constitution and the Constitution actually explicitly makes possible laws which are racist and discriminatory.”

“Practical change was required, not just symbolic recognition. Constitutional change is required because it provides a stable guarantee of rights.”

Mr Goodwin encouraged Constitutional reform to remove the racist and discriminatory parts of the Constitution, and to set the place in history of our Indigenous people into the Constitution.

Ms Gurruwiwi provided a personal perspective, describing her family history which raised issues of the Stolen Generation, severe discrimination and overt racism.
A variety of related issues were discussed in a panel discussion moderated by John Searle, including the Indigenous community’s desire for a treaty, the need for solid and ongoing education in schools about Indigenous history & issues, the diversity of opinion with the Indigenous community on the type of change required, and the political & practical hurdles to overcome.

Supporting organisations for the Forum included Progressive Judaism Victoria, Jewish Care, Stand Up, B’nai B’rith, Kehilat Nitzan and Shira Hadasha.  Ms Huppert thanked Reconciliation Victoria for their support for the event.

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