Indigenous leaders split over constitution push

DISTRICT indigenous leaders are split over the federal push to recognise Australia's Aboriginal history in the constitution via a referendum.

A panel of indigenous leaders and legal experts released a report last week detailing their recommendations on how the constitutional recognition would best be delivered.

The federal government has pledged to hold a national referendum on the issue on or before the next federal election, due next year.

South-west indigenous leader Len Clarke said constitutional recognition was an important step towards bridging the gap between Australians of Aboriginal and European descent.

He told The Standard the wider south-west indigenous community wanted to ensure the reconciliation process maintained momentum.

"I think mentioning the indigenous peoples of Australia in the constitution is about recognising basic legal rights and our historic contribution," Mr Clarke said.

"Everyone hailed reconciliation (speech by former prime minister Kevin Rudd) as solving all our problems, but more needs to be done in health, education and the justice system.

"The 2008 speech was one step forward and this latest move is another."

Another south-west leader, Rob Lowe snr, yesterday said he was cynical about the constitution push, claiming it was a way of politicians avoiding the tough issues.

He said both the federal government and Opposition needed to seek a wider range of views within the national indigenous community.

"The problem is that politicians only take advice from one or two of their preferred Aboriginal leaders, which is fine, but it isn't representative of the wider view," Mr Lowe said.

"We had the reconciliation speech but little has changed since then.

"More consultation needs to take place to work out the issues instead of just saying we'll have a referendum and that will solve our problems."

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