Australia to hold a historic referendum on Indigenous rights

Australia's parliament has passed laws paving the way for a historic referendum on Indigenous rights. (Photo: AFP/File Saeed Khan/File)

Australia's parliament cleared the way on Monday for a historic vote on Aboriginal rights; the result will determine whether or not the Indigenous people have a dedicated "voice" in determining national policy. 

The referendum bill was approved by the Senate 52-19, enabling Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to set the date for the vote, which is now anticipated to take place by the end of the year.

The referendum will be a crucial turning point in Australian politics, helping to redefine what it means to be an Australian and the frequently tense relationship between Indigenous minorities and the white majority.

If approved, Indigenous Australians, whose ancestors have inhabited the continent for at least 60,000 years, would finally be acknowledged in the constitution.

Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would be granted a constitutionally guaranteed right to government consultation on laws that affect their communities. 

"This is about who we are as a nation," declared Albanese, praising the passage in parliament and pressing forcefully for a "Yes" vote.

The center-left leader declared that "today, our Parliament has said 'yes' to holding a referendum."

"Now, the Australian people will have the chance to affirm reconciliation and First Nations peoples' constitutional recognition."

The "Yes" campaign aspires to empower Indigenous populations, who are hampered by worsening health, lower levels of education, and higher rates of incarceration. 

Independent senator and well-known Indigenous activist Lidia Thorpe described it as a "powerless advisory body."

She stated, "That's what this is about — it's appeasing the white guilt in this country," before the bill's passage on Monday. 

Pat Anderson, a supporter of indigenous rights, urged "maturity" in the discussion. 

What kind of a nation we are and what we stand for will be decided by the Australian people, she said. "What do we stand for? We who we are? We will soon cast our votes on that.

Publish : 2023-06-19 10:21:00

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