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Time to formally recognise the contribution of the First Peoples: National Reconciliation Week 2013

The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia is marking National Reconciliation Week (May 27 to June 3) by celebrating the contribution Indigenous people make to our community and renewing calls for the First Peoples of Australia to be officially recognised in the Constitution.

St Vincent de Paul Society Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said changes to the Constitution were long-overdue and he encouraged people to familiarise themselves with the Recognition campaign.

“A simple but pro-active step towards reconciliation that every Australian could make this week is to read up on the campaign for Constitutional recognition and inform their friends and family members,” Dr Falzon said. “In doing so, we have a greater chance of receiving a ‘yes’ vote when a referendum is held in the not too distant future.”

Last year plans to hold a referendum were postponed due to the lack of awareness of the issue in the community. In February 2013 Federal Parliamentarians passed the Act of Recognition, which was billed as an important step towards a referendum. The St Vincent de Paul Society wrote a submission supporting the Act, but criticising the delay. The submission read:

It is axiomatic that justice delayed is justice denied. The absence of Constitutional recognition of the First Peoples of Australia is a grave injustice. In many ways this absence is emblematic of the host of structural and historical injustices that the First Peoples have been, and continue to be, subjected to. While Constitutional recognition will not erase these many forms of injustice, it is a matter of deep sadness and shame for us as a nation that we are faced with this further delay in taking this important step in our national journey of recognising the historical truth and honouring the First Peoples.

National President, Anthony Thornton said the theme for National Reconciliation Week this year – ‘Let’s Talk Recognition’ – was apt considering the awareness week marks the anniversaries of both the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.

“Our First Peoples should not have to wait for such long periods of time to be officially recognised and the sooner a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum can be secured the better,” Mr Thornton said.

For more information please go to www.reconciliation.org.au and www.recognise.org.au

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