WA recognition for Aboriginals endorsed

WA recognition for Aboriginals endorsed

A cross-party select committee could find no obstacles for recognising quickly Aboriginal people in the State's Constitution and Colin Barnett has set his Government a WA Day deadline to get the change through Parliament.

The Premier committed the Government yesterday to support Kimberley MLA and Gidja woman Josie Farrer's push to amend the Constitution preamble after the committee endorsed her plan. It would acknowledge Aboriginal people as the first West Australians and traditional custodians of the land and commit Parliament to effect reconciliation.

The committee, chaired by Attorney-General Michael Mischin and had two Liberal MPs, three Labor and a Nationals MP, found the amendment could be simply enacted by the Parliament and did not need a referendum. It also found the preamble would have no substantive effect on existing laws, native title or pastoral leases.

The committee backed deleting sections 42 and 75 of the Constitutions Act of 1889 which excluded "Aboriginal natives" from the count of WA's population and a reference to the Aborigines Protection Board made redundant in 1905.

MPs applauded Ms Farrer after she tabled the report in the Legislative Assembly and called on West Australians to recognise their "blind spot" towards Aboriginal culture, language and heritage. "That blind spot connects directly with our high suicide rates, our high rate of imprisonment, our lower life expectancy and the poverty and desolation in which far too many Aboriginal people live today," she said.

Mr Barnett said Cabinet would still seek its own advice before a formal decision.