Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Abbott needs to commit to meaningful constitutional change

Tony Abbott’s support for constitutional reform is a welcome sign of bipartisanship – but Mr Abbott must now show he is committed to meaningful change to recognise Indigenous people in the Constitution.

Members of Mr Abbott’s party, including his shadow Attorney General George Brandis, have previously expressed reservations about constitutional change. (‘Race Power Opens Pandora’s Box’, The Australian, 21/12/2011).

Mr Brandis also initially opposed the Government’s efforts to pass an Act of Recognition through the Parliament. (‘Coalition to Oppose Symbolic Pledge on Indigenous Australians’, The Australian, 21 September 2012).

This Labor Government is committed to recognising Indigenous people in Australia’s Constitution and wants meaningful reform that reflects the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous people and unites the nation.

The Government appointed an Expert Panel to provide options on how best to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and options for change.

For the first time we now have options for meaningful change.

The Government supports the Expert Panel’s recommendations and believes that the Constitution should be changed to:

  • include a statement of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their unique history, culture and connection to this land;
  • remove references to race, reflecting the nation’s fundamental belief in the importance of equality and non-discrimination; and
  • acknowledge that additional effort is needed to help close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples disadvantage.

It will be important for Mr Abbott to likewise commit the Coalition to meaningful reform that reflects the Expert Panel’s recommendations.

The Government also supports the Expert Panel’s recommendation that a referendum should be put at a time when it has the most chance of success.

That’s why we are providing $10 million to help build community awareness and support for change.

To find out more about constitutional recognition, visit