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Call for recognition of First Peoples

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Acknowledging the First Peoples in the Australian Constitution would be a healing step, Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ said at the annual Australia Day Mass last month.

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Organised by the Catholic Women’s League, the Therry Dramatic Society and the Knights of the Southern Cross, the Mass was attended by past winners of Australia Day and Queen’s Birthday honours. It also featured the presentation of the John Brewer Scholarships.

In his homily, Bishop O’Kelly said that as Christians we were to be “reconcilers”.

“The controversies around the date of Australia Day and its title must make us think,” he said.

“There is obviously a need for community reconciliation to address the outstanding injustices that still afflict the First Australians.

“The coming of the Europeans effectively destroyed many Indigenous nations and cultures and left their descendants as disadvantaged strangers in their own land.

“It is a bitter title to call this Invasion Day, so how do we address that hurt?

“Think of the hugely dis-proportional prison rates for our Aboriginal people; what does that say?  Think of the despair among families caused by the appalling suicide figures of young aboriginal people. For them this is not Australia felix (fortunate Australia).”

Referring to the campaign to recognise the First Peoples in the Constitution, Bishop O’Kelly said the founding fathers seemed to have presumed an all-white Australia.

“But now so clearly we have an ethnic and cultural diversity of identity that enriches us with pride,” he said.

“Surely our Aboriginal Aust-ralians have a unique, prime standing in this diversity, and a recognition of that could be accomplished by an appropriate statement in our Constitution.

“It might help towards the healing of wounds, help indicate a Christian belief in reconciliation.”

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