Anniversary of the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the WA Constitution change
September 10, 2020
Western Australia officially changed their state constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the 10th of September 2015 through the insertion of a preamble. The change occurred through the Recognition of Aboriginal People bill, and won bipartisan support from both the Liberal and Labor Party’s. This change showed that that recognizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a state constitution is an important reform, however, also shows that real change needs to be delivered through changing the Australian Constitution as outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to enshrine a Voice to Parliament.
The Recognition of Aboriginal People bill amended the Western Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people and the custodians of the state. This was done through the insertion of the following words into the Constitution’s Preamble.
And whereas the Legislature of the Colony, as previously constituted, was replaced through this Act with a Parliament, to consist of the Queen, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly with the members of both Houses chosen by the people, and, as constituted, continued as the Parliament of the Colony until Western Australia’s accession as an Original State of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 and thereafter has been the Parliament of the State;
And whereas the Parliament resolves to acknowledge the Aboriginal people as the First People of Western Australia and traditional custodians of the land, the said Parliament seeks to effect a reconciliation with the Aboriginal people of Western Australia:
This change to the Western Australian Constitution was an important and symbolic recognition of the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been in Australia for over 60,000 years and the fact that both State and Australian Constitution’s didn’t include them has been a challenge our nation has needed to resolve.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart represents a historic consensus of Indigenous leaders in seeking constitutional change to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a Voice to Parliament.
This call for change is a fair and practical reform, that rejects the symbolism of recognition through a preamble in our nation’s Constitution, and instead calls for change that will deliver real change to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Western Australian Constitution is an important change, Australia needs to come together to deliver this change through a Voice to Parliament.