Com­mu­nity di­vided over plan to change con­sti­tu­tion

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr and Gareth Parker

There has been a mixed re­sponse in the Pil­bara to a Bill passed in State Par­lia­ment last week to recog­nise Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in the State Con­sti­tu­tion.

Kim­ber­ley MLA Josie Far­rer’s Bill to recog­nise in­dige­nous peo­ple as the first peo­ple and tra­di­tional cus­to­di­ans of the land was passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port through the WA leg­isla­tive assem­bly.

But Ngar­luma Yind­jibarndi el­der Mau­reen Kelly said the Bill was just another piece of pa­per on top of all the re­ports into var­i­ous in­dige­nous is­sues un­der­taken by var­i­ous Gov­ern­ments.

“Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple have al­ways known they are the tra­di­tional cus­to­di­ans of the land,” she said.

“They give you some­thing like this with one hand, then take some­thing away like the Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Act with the other.

“Why bother recog­nis­ing us if we don’t have our her­itage?”

Yind­jibarndi Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Wood­ley said Ms Far­rer showed “re­mark­able” courage for pur­su­ing the Bill.

“As first na­tion peo­ples of our State, we can be proud of the lead­er­ship shown by our Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in tak­ing this sym­bolic step to­wards con­sti­tu­tional recog­ni­tion and right­ing the wrongs of history that dis­crim­i­na­tion does not ex­ist within our free demo­cratic so­ci­ety,” he said.

“This is no doubt a pos­i­tive step to many other dis­cern­ing is­sues that are to be cor­rected.”

Premier Colin Bar­nett said ac­knowl­edge­ment for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in the con­sti­tu­tion was over­due. “Un­for­tu­nately, the State’s con­sti­tu­tion only men­tions Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple for the pur­pose of dis­crim­i­na­tion,” he said.

“With the pas­sage of this Bill, we can cor­rect this mis­take.”

Shadow Abo­rig­i­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Ben Wy­att said the im­por­tance of this Bill could not be un­der­es­ti­mated, de­spite in­tro­duc­ing no new rights or obli­ga­tions.

Mr Wy­att said recog­nis­ing Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture and history was a pre­cur­sor to any mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ship with WA’s Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

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