Oxfam Australia today welcomed Prime Minister Gillard’s announcement to hold a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Australian Constitution.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that recognising the unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in our nation is a crucial foundation for building a fairer society for our nation’s First Peoples.
“This referendum will give Australians around the country the chance to have an important national conversation about how we create a fairer country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People,” Mr Hewett said.
“Across all measures of disadvantage, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People fare worse than non-Indigenous Australians and we need a strong foundation to address this.
“Constitutional change is more than just a symbolic gesture – it is fundamental to achieving true equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and has the potential to make a real difference to their lives.
“As human rights based organisation, Oxfam has seen around the world the major improvements in people’s health and development that can be achieved when all of their rights are realised and their equality is recognised,” Mr Hewett said.
Mr Hewett also said that recognising the special place and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is an important step toward achieving health equality for all Australians.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are facing some of the most challenging problems in the country, including a 10 – 17 year life expectancy gap, and appallingly high rates of child mortality and disease,”
“As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said last week, resetting the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is key to addressing Indigenous health inequality,” Mr Hewett said.
Oxfam Australia has been working for more than 30 years to improve opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to exercise their rights, and is an active member of the Close the Gap campaign for Indigenous health inequality.
For more information or to interview Andrew Hewett, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Sunita Bose on 0407 555 960.