John Lochowiak, who is chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council and manager of Aboriginal Services at Centacare Catholic Family Services, said he was overwhelmed by the support he encountered when attending several NAIDOC Week celebrations in early July.
“What has been very positive is that a lot of people who are not Aboriginal are saying they are now more aware of the issues and are supporting us. They are saying there needs to be change.
“I’m finding this outside support is really encouraging.”
However, he noted that it will always be difficult to get a uniform consensus from the Aboriginal community on the best course of action.
“It is a very complicated issue because there are so many different Aboriginal language groups and we have Aboriginal people living in the city, country and remote areas, so the ideas differ between the different communities.
“However, it’s good that we have this issue on the table for discussion as we have to start somewhere.”
The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition was due to hand down its interim report on July 30, with a final report due at the end of November.
The committee has received evidence from many delegates around Australia on possible options for a First Nations Voice to the Parliament.
The committee was established after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed the Statement from the Heart issued at the National Constitutional Convention held at Uluru last year contained big ideas but was short on detail in terms of how an amendment to the Constitution might be implemented to ensure parliament hears Indigenous voices.
The Australian Catholic University also entered the discussion with the release of its paper Upholding the Big Ideas, which consists of four policy documents developed to look at possibilities for Indigenous recognition.
The proposals are a joint project of the PM Glynn Institute, the public policy think-tank of ACU, and Uphold & Recognise, an organisation committed to upholding the Australian Constitution and recognising Indigenous Australians.