Australia promises referendum on recognition of indigenous rights

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Sydney, July 10 (IANS) The Australian government promised on Wednesday to hold a referendum on whether to amend the constitution to recognize the rights of indigenous people.

The vote will be held within three years, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said in a National Press Club address.

“I will develop and bring forward a consensus option for constitutional recognition to be put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term,” said Wyatt, the first indigenous person to hold the ministerial position, reported Efe news.

The Australian constitution, which came into force in 1901, makes no reference to the indigenous Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander population, which has prompted various complaints by this historically marginalized and discriminated minority.

In May 2017, around 300 representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population signed the Uluru statement calling for constitutionally guaranteed political representation through an indigenous advisory body, and a pact with the federal government that would give them powers on matters concerning the community, as well as “truth-telling” of its colonial history.

The government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has expressed its willingness to listen to the complaints of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, unlike earlier administrations.

Currently, Aborigines account for 3 per cent of Australia’s population of 22 million, and most of them live in remote or lower socio-economic areas, with a per capita household income barely 62 per cent of the national average.

–IANS

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