President of the Uniting Church in Australia Rev Alistair Macrae welcomed the report from the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in January.
Mr Macrae said the report signals a landmark opportunity in our journey towards reconciliation and was a necessary step following the moving apology delivered by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in February 2008.
“We welcome the release of the report and congratulate the members of the panel for their work,” he said.
“The directions suggested offer a significant opportunity for us, as a nation, to recognise and honour the identity of the First Peoples.
“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.
“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,” said Mr Macrae.
National Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Rev Ken Sumner said he was pleased that the panel recommended the removal of the race powers provisions.
“These provisions have served as a reminder of shameful aspects of Australia’s history,” he said.
“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,” said Mr Sumner.
Mr Macrae said he hoped all political parties would support the recommendations.
“The dignity of recognition afforded by Constitutional change will allow for the continued building of a relationship based on truthtelling and justice.
It will provide for us a strong foundation for continuing our journey towards a just and reconciled nation,” he said.
Photo : Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae with Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, former Moderator of the Northern Synod. Photo courtesy of Amy Goodhew