Since Federation, public debates about the place of Aboriginal people in the nation have focused on the problem of how to incorporate Aboriginal people within the framework of the Australian nation-state by various means: assimilation, integration, self-management, self-determination, reconciliation, but always on the proviso that they would never be equal. There is a persistent unwillingness to acknowledge in Australia, the rights of indigenous people are inferior to those in the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
The racialised Aboriginal citizen is an unacceptable and inappropriate replacement for the absence of the Aboriginal person that our Constitution required for six decades. Some concept more appropriate than reference to a 'race' in the Constitution should acknowledge our existence in the nation.
I propose that our children will benefit from a serious consideration of these issues, in particular, proposals for referenda questions that would deal with removing the offending racist provisions of the Constitution, Section 25 and Section 51 (ss. xxvi) and replacing them with an acknowledgment of the pre-existing Aboriginal polities, or Aboriginal nations, and the necessity to make agreements with these groups in order to achieve peace and good order. We must, I believe, leave our children with a formal acknowledgement in our Constitution of the existence of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, one that goes beyond the racialised citizen and encompasses the explicit rights of peoples within our nation state.
It is wrong for Australians to claim that the nation was born of a peaceful process. at the very time that constitutional conventions were held as gatherings of the white colonial men who sought to federate six colonies into a single commonwealth, their brothers were still engaged in savage frontier campaigns to take territory from Aboriginal peoples, territory that the men at the conventions assumed a new authority over.
The unity of Australia is nothing, if that does not imply a united race. A united race means not only that its members can intermix, intermarry and associate without degradation on either side, but implies one inspired by the same ideals, of a people possessing the same general cast of character, tone of thought.