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Challenges for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition in Australia
The Labour party has finally moved on this issue after recommendation by an expert panel, though the conservative party The Australian Liberals have an issue with recognising indigenous Australians under the constitution and suggested only a mention in the Pre-Amble. Australia, although is a multi-party system, though the smaller parties often give preferences to one of the big two parties, the Australian Labour Party or the Australian Liberal Party. There has been some debate that if put before referendum the motion may not pass.
"HISTORIC changes to the commonwealth Constitution to acknowledge indigenous Australians face almost certain defeat unless significantly amended, after a 300-page proposal presented to Julia Gillard yesterday prompted a chorus of concerns from some indigenous leaders and legal experts.
Chief among their worries is the recommended insertion of a clause to prohibit racial discrimination, which Tony Abbott suggests may amount to a "one clause bill of rights".
The report, produced by an expert panel, recommends that the nation's guiding document be altered to remove racist sections and create a section to legislate for the "advancement" of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the protection of their language and culture."
Australia does not have a Bill of Rights I should point out. Free-hold land is
very rare, many of those land titles are now subject to a 99 year lease arrangement, pastoral lease, mining lease or other agreement. Given an exploration right exists, a mining company can come onto your land and make a claim then mine it, leaving the land owner entitled to nothing unless an agreement takes place. The state government receives royalties and there are some arrangements where people with land rights are entitled to payment. However a state government can decide that people are entitled to nothing in some cases and remove them if it wants. Just recently a group of Aboriginal people from Western Australia were moved from their homes and their entire town was shut down by the state government. Too expensive to maintain services was the given reason, despite the mining boom in Western Australia taking place on what was once land communally shared by indigenous peoples. Ownership and commercial exploitation of land was not part of indigenous society or traditions, instead you are part of the land, you belong to it.
Native Title claims are subject to a legally proven unbroken cultural link to the land, a rather difficult task at times when you consider that until recently Indigenous people were not recorded by the Australian Census and were subject to being forcibly moved to different locations and their children taken from them.
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