People carry Australian Aboriginal flags during a demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney. File photo/ Reuters
Australia will hold a national vote within three years on whether to include recognition of indigenous people in its constitution, the government said on Wednesday, an issue that has spurred decades of often heated debate.
Australia has struggled to reconcile with descendants of its first inhabitants, who arrived on the continent about 50,000 years before British colonists but are not recognised in the national constitution.
However, with public support on the issue growing, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt promised a referendum before 2022.
“I will develop and bring forward a consensus option for constitutional recognition to be put to a referendum during the current parliamentary term,” Wyatt said in a speech in Canberra.
Australians must return to the polls by 2022 after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition government was returned in a “miracle” election win in May.
However, to meet the timetable Wyatt will need to facilitate an agreement between the government and indigenous leaders, who have demanded a bigger voice in the running of the country.
Indigenous leaders proposed in 2017 establishing an advisory body comprised of elected indigenous Australians enshrined in the constitution. The government rejected the proposal, insisting it would create a de facto third chamber in parliament.
The government has come under growing pressure since then to revisit the issue, with several corporate giants insisting that meaningful recognition is the only way to bridge the divide in Australia’s population.
“A first nations voice to parliament is a meaningful step towards reconciliation,” BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said earlier this year.
Indigenous Australians account for about 700,000 people in a total population of 23 million and have tracked near the bottom in almost every socio-economic indicator, suffering disproportionately high rates of suicide, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and imprisonment.
Denied the vote until the mid-1960s, they face a 10-year gap in life expectancy compared with other Australians and make up 27% of the prison population.
A rampant Australia defeated Pakistan by 20 runs in the fifth ODI to complete a 5-0 clean sweep in the five-match series in Dubai on Sunday.
Joe Root is determined the “spicy” nature of England’s latest clash with Australia won’t prove a distraction when the arch rivals meet for a place in the World Cup final.
Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon says his side will be the underdogs when they face hosts England in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals. “They have been the No. 1 team for a couple of years now.
The countdown has begun. The UAE is just hours away from achieving another historic milestone. After turning the desert into a land of opportunities in a short span of time, Emiratis are now aiming high with the landmark space mission.
“It is a wonderful feeling to witness the Space Station mission of Hazzaa Al Mansouri,” says reputed Egyptian-American space scientist and geologist Dr Farouk El-Baz. “I have heard firsthand Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the Emirates, of his interest in space missions. I also know of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, regarding his vision of the UAE contributing to space missions. In addition I also know of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah’s interest in applying space knowledge to improving knowledge of our resources.
The mission of Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori will enhance the UAE’s soft power, feel Emiratis. The UAE has made phenomenal strides in its spectacular growth, which has pitchforked it into a nation of great reckoning in the international community.