Aboriginals seek place in  Constitution
Recognition: Kimberley MLA Josie Farrer with Labor leader Mark McGowan and Aboriginal Affairs spokesman Ben Wyatt. Picture: Bil Hatto/The West Australian

Aboriginals would be formally recognised as the first peoples and traditional custodians of the land under a proposed amendment to the WA Constitution by WA Labor.

Kimberley MLA Josie Farrer, a Gidja woman and first-term MP whose inaugural speech to the Parliament last year spotlighted Aboriginal disadvantage and traditional culture, will today introduce a private member's Bill to amend the constitution in State Parliament.

The Bill would amend the preamble of the WA Constitution to insert language stating the Houses of Parliament "resolve to acknowledge the Aboriginal peoples as the First Peoples of Western Australia and traditional custodians of the land".

The preamble would also say that Parliament "seeks to effect a reconciliation with the Aboriginal peoples of Western Australia".

The words are the same as those proposed by former Labor MLC John Cowdell in a 2004 push to have the Constitution amended that was not made public amid concerns it would not pass the Upper House.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said a draft Bill was sent to the State Solicitor for advice but was not presented to Parliament.

Mr McGowan said the 2004 advice was that the Bill - which is intended as a symbolic act of reconciliation - would have no legal implications with regard to existing property or other rights.

WA is the only Australian mainland State without constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people.

"I think it's long overdue," Ms Farrer said yesterday. "Now is the appropriate time."

The Bill would require the support of the Government to pass.

Premier Colin Barnett has focused much of his efforts in Aboriginal affairs to settling a native title claim over Perth and the South West.

Mr McGowan said there was no reason the issues could not be pursued simultaneously.

The West Australian

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