Canberra, March 30 (IANS) Australia’s government on Thursday took the first step towards establishing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament by introducing a legislation that would trigger a referendum.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus tabled the bill in the lower house, declaring it is time for a different approach to addressing Indigenous disadvantage, reports Xinhua news agency.
The bill, which has the support needed to pass both houses without a hitch, will enable the government to hold a referendum in the second half of 2023 on whether the constitution should be changed to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and set up the Voice.
If successful, the Voice would advise Parliament on issues relating to the Indigenous people.
Dreyfus said the bill would rectify 120 years of “explicit exclusion” of Indigenous people from the country’s founding document.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have occupied the Australian continent for over 60,000 years… They have maintained a relationship with Australia’s land, waters and sky since time immemorial,” he said.
“Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not recognized in our constitution.”
He said that at the current pace, gaps in health, education and other life outcomes for Indigenous Australians could not be closed for generations.