The Central Land Council has made sure local Aboriginal people will get a chance to have their say about the referendum on the constitutional recognition of indigenous people at a regional meeting near Alice Springs, as well as a national convention at Uluru.
Central Australia’s so-called First Nations Regional Dialogue will go ahead 31 March – 2 April at Ross River, east of Alice Springs, following a decision by the CLC members to help organise both gatherings.
One of 12 meetings across the country, the Ross River meeting will be a chance for participants to debate what the referendum question should cover.
The CLC wrote to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015, asking for an Aboriginal-only meeting in its region.
CLC delegates agreed to a request by the Referendum Council for the CLC to provide facilitation and logistical support for the meeting and helped to draw up a list of 100 invitees.
“Traditional owners, Aboriginal organisations and individuals all need to be represented,” said CLC director David Ross.
“The Referendum Council also wants us to facilitate a mix of ages, genders and regions.”
Mr Ross and Barbara Shaw, the general manager of Anyinginyi Health in Tennant Creek, agreed to chair the meeting while the CLC’s Dr Josie Douglas and Francine McCarthy will facilitate workshops along with Karl Hampton, Misha Cartwright and Joe Carter.
“The workshops are an opportunity for participants to deliberate on their preferences for recognition but they are not expected to make a final decision,” Mr Ross said.
Each regional dialogue meeting will be asked to send five participants to the national convention at Uluru in April 2017.
The convention will consider the referendum proposal and seek consensus on the question to be put to all Australian voters.
The proposal follows meetings of indigenous leaders in Broome, Thursday Island and Melbourne in the middle of the year which decided how to run the regional dialogues and the national convention and advised politicians not to rush the process.
CLC and NLC delegates passed the following resolution at their joint meeting at Kalkaringi in August 2016:
“We reaffirm our commitment to the principles set out in the 1988 Barunga and 1998 Kalkaringi Statements.
Constitutional reform must deliver meaningful and enduring benefits for our peoples. We are prepared to examine models for constitutional recognition that deliver such benefits.
Indigenous constitutional forums must be held in the NT involving Aboriginal people in the bush.
Any progress towards constitutional recognition must not endanger our rights to negotiate treaties to finally achieve self-determination.”