In my Opinion Piece in the Geelong Advertiser last October, I suggested that to show commitment and support for Constitutional Recognition of First Nations people, that perhaps the Committee for Geelong should be known as the Committee for Djilang (29/10/21.) This was not a flippant suggestion.

Carrying through this conversation with the team at the Geelong Advertiser resulted in the incredible decision to re-brand the 181-year-old masthead to the Djilang Advertiser today.

While acknowledging and recognising First Nation’s culture, language and heritage is important, today’s name-change needs to be more than semantics.

There is strong support from Australians to make constitutional change. In 1967, over 90 per cent of Australian voters said ‘yes’ to change the constitution to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Census reporting and provide the Commonwealth with the power to make laws for ‘the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.’ This referendum also removed some constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but fell short of properly and respectfully recognising them as First Nations people.

It was disappointing that more change did not occur during the last term of Federal Government. However, in Prime Minister Albanese’s victory speech, it was heartening to hear him say that: “We will, of course, be advancing the need to have constitutional recognition of First Nations people, including a Voice to Parliament that is enshrined in that constitution.”

The Uluru Statement from the Heart urges the federal government to establish an Indigenous Voice, negotiate a treaty with the Traditional Owners of Australia, and facilitate a truth-telling process to record past injustices enacted against Indigenous people. In Victoria, the Treaty process is underway; on 23 June 2022, a landmark Treaty Authority bill was passed in the lower house of the Victorian Parliament. Led by First Nations People and grounded in First Peoples’ culture and law, the bill allows for an independent Treaty Authority to oversee Treaty negotiations and help resolve disputes.

Federally, a ‘Voice’ would be a body made up of Indigenous Australians that the federal government would need to consult with on policy and legislation. Part of the Uluru statement reads:

“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”

Let us take this NAIDOC Week and this time in Djilang to stand with First Nations people and call for constitutional recognition.