Law Council backs indigenous voice vote

The Law Council of Australia has officially thrown its support behind a national vote on an Aboriginal voice to parliament.

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Five months ago the Referendum Council backed a referendum for a constitutionally-enshrined indigenous advisory body at a historic convention in Central Australia.

It’s recommendations, delivered to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in June, also called for a treaty-making mechanism and a reconciliation commission.

But the commonwealth has yet to formally respond.

On Tuesday the Law Council of Australia urged genuine commitment from all federal parliamentarians to implement the recommendations swiftly.

“The package of reforms proposed by the Referendum Council is an important step forward in the process toward reconciliation,” president Fiona McLeod SC said.

She also noted that the proposals would pave the way for indigenous self-determination, a fundamental principle of international law enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

Australia has committed to this principle under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Law Council has long held that the country’s founding document should formally recognise the distinct identities of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their unique status as Australia’s first peoples.

“The Referendum Council’s work in pursuing change has been essential and, on behalf of the Australian legal profession, I thank its members,” Ms McLeod said.

Cape York leader Noel Pearson is hopeful once the same sex marriage issue is resolved, political attention can return to Aboriginal constitutional reform.

He challenged parliamentarians and the broader community to take responsibility for change, stressing the debate had dragged on for the past decade and time was running out.

“At some point white Australia’s got to step up,” Mr Pearson told the Sydney Institute on Monday night.

“We really need leadership from the government… so that this agenda is not forever sidelined.”