Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians appointed

Joint Media Release with:

  • Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister
    Robert McClelland MP, Attorney-General

The Australian Government today took a further step towards the recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution by appointing the members of the expert panel that will help lead the process.

The panel members are accomplished and respected individuals who will be responsible for developing options to recognise the unique and special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution. They will also help generate community support for the proposal.

The panel is made up of Indigenous and community leaders, legal experts and parliamentary members, who bring together a wide range of expertise. It will be co-chaired by Professor Patrick Dodson and Mr Mark Leibler AC.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the co-Chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples will also be represented on the panel.

The panel was chosen after the Government received public nominations for members, as well as consultation with the Opposition Leader, the Greens and Independents.

The panel will lead a wide-ranging national public consultation and engagement program throughout 2011 to build consensus on the recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution.

Its first formal meeting will be held early in 2011 and it will work through the year before reporting to the Australian Government by the end of 2011.

In developing options for constitutional change, the panel will consider a range of views and will propose options for change which have the best chance of success at a referendum.

The Australian Government is committed to holding a national referendum on this issue during the term of the current government or at the next Federal election.

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous people will be a significant step towards building an Australia based on strong relationships and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The Government does not underestimate the challenge of achieving nation-wide consensus. To succeed, the referendum must attract the support of a majority vote nationally, and a majority of votes in a majority of states.

Constitutional change will require support from across the political spectrum, as well as the support of businesses, community organisations and individuals from around the country.

Australians are encouraged to engage with the expert panel’s work and to put their views forward.

Further information on Indigenous constitutional recognition, including biographies of Panel members and its terms of reference, is available at: FaHCSIA website

Membership of the Expert Panel on Indigenous Constitutional Recognition


  • Professor Patrick Dodson
  • Mr Mark Leibler AC

Panel Members

  • Mr Graham Bradley AM
  • Mr Timmy ‘Djawa’ Burarrwanga
  • Mr Henry Burmester AO, QC
  • Mr Fred Chaney AO
  • Associate Professor Megan Davis
  • Mr Glenn Ferguson
  • Ms Lauren Ganley
  • Professor Marcia Langton
  • Mr Bill Lawson AM
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson

Parliamentary Members

  • Mr Rob Oakeshott MP
  • Ms Janelle Saffin MP
  • Senator Rachel Siewert
  • Mr Ken Wyatt MP

Ex-Officio Members

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (Mr Mick Gooda)
  • The National Congress Co-Chairs (Mr Sam Jeffries and Ms Josephine Bourne)