The Uniting Church in Australia believes that todayâ€™s report from the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People signals a landmark opportunity in our journey towards reconciliation. It is a necessary step following the moving apology delivered by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in February 2008.
President of the Church, Rev Alistair Macrae, said, â€˜We welcome the release of the Report and congratulate the members of the Panel for their work. The directions suggested offer a significant opportunity for us, as a nation, to recognise and honour the identity of the First Peoples.
â€˜In 1994, the Uniting Church formally apologised for its complicity in the injustices that led to the First Peoples being dispossessed of their land, their language, their culture and their spirituality.
â€˜The apology to First Peoples was the catalyst for the Uniting Church to engage in its own process of Constitutional change. We now have a Preamble which speaks honestly about our past and looks forward with hope to our future. It has enabled us to imagine our new shared destiny together,â€™ said Rev Macrae.
Rev Ken Sumner, the National Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, said, â€˜We are pleased that the Panel is recommending the removal of the race powers provisions. These provisions have served as a reminder of shameful aspects of Australiaâ€™s history.â€™
â€˜We urge the Government to ensure that an extensive public education and awareness campaign is conducted prior to the calling of a Referendum. This will ensure that all Australians are aware of the importance and value of Constitutional recognition of the First Peoples for everyone in our society,â€™ said Rev Sumner.
â€˜In the bipartisan spirit of the beginnings of this process, I sincerely hope all parties will support these recommendations. The dignity of recognition afforded by Constitutional change will allow for the continued building of a relationship based on truth-telling and justice. It will provide for us a strong foundation for continuing our journey towards a just and reconciled nation,â€™ said Rev Macrae.