Community divided over plan to change constitution
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.