The community services peak body, ACOSS, has hailed the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision to form an expert panel to advise on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution, urging all Australians to be involved in the process towards a truly reconciled nation.
The 20 member board of the Australian Council of Social Service today endorsed a resolution declaring unequivocal support for the process announced by the Prime Minister.
“We applaud the move and call on politicians of all persuasion to show good faith and responsibility, and engage in a sincere and mature debate on this crucial issue,” said CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“Too often in the past talk of Indigenous rights has led to polarised debates of practical versus symbolic action that have left the public confused and disengaged.
“As a nation we turned a corner with the historic apology in 2008, which showed deep community sentiment for a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia based on respect and equality.
“It proved Australia is capable of a mature and deeper national conversation about these issues. We now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to include our first peoples in the single most important framing document of our nation.
“We must seize the moment and begin this new partnership. It will only be achieved if our elected representatives show leadership and a bipartisan commitment to a fair and honest process leading to a referendum.
“The community services sector knows all too well the enormous disparity that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in our frontline work providing crucial assistance to the most disadvantaged in society.
“We know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still face gross inequities and are the single most disadvantaged group in our country. It is time to reinvigorate our efforts to ‘Close the Gap’ within a framework of a deeper partnership that this movement could bring.”
The resolution was supported by all eight State and Territory Councils of Social Service, which represent over three thousand community groups around Australia.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO Australian Council of Social Service
Ms Roslyn Dundas, Director ACT Council of Social Service
Ms Alison Peters, Director NSW Council of Social Service
Ms Wendy Morton, Director NT Council of Social Service
Ms Jill Lang, CEO QLD Council of Social Service
Mr Ross Womersley, Director SA Council of Social Service
Ms Ann Hughes, Acting CEO TAS Council of Social Service
Ms Cath Smith, CEO VIC Council of Social Service
Ms Sue Ash, CEO WA Council of Social Service
Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155