A grant provided by 'Recognise' to One Fire led to this first stage of the project to inform and engage local people about the plans for a refereundum to change the Australian Constitution, in order to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
The Report Summary (short version) is below.
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The purpose of the Geelong Constitutional Recognition Project has been to raise awareness of Constitutional Recognition in the Geelong region over a five month period in early 2013. The tasks undertaken were:
a) Provision of sessiosn to 10 local organisations/groups as stage 1 January-May 2013
b) Evaluate and report on the outrcomes to Reconciliaiton Australia / Recognise
c) Review project and consider next steps
A small Steering Group was developed, including members of the Geelong One Fire Committee who were accountable for the Project, plus other interested people. A Co-ordiantor was appointed who worked with the ongoing Planning Group which became the driving force for the Project.
The decision to engage a group of people through anticipated interest and with the necessary relationships and skills to develop and achieve the Project in this short time line was successful. They became the 10 members of the local Planning Group: five Aboriginal and 5 non-Aboriginal people, who worked well together and maintained a commitment to deliver the sessions in a range of settings to a reasonably wide demographic of the Geelong community.
We received support from Councillor Eddy Kontelj: Aboriginal Affairs portfolio holder, who we updated as the project progressed.
We are pleased with the outcomes, and despite the challenges which went with setting up the sessions (tight time frame, evaluating the feedback), the approach has proved to be a sound one.
Sessions were provided to –
· City of Greater Geelong Mayor & Councillors at a full briefing
· Diversitat (migrant & refugee support service)
· Geelong Trades Hall Board members
· Geelong One Fire members
· Labour Party MP and members
· Liberal Party
· Narana staff, Board members and community members
· Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative community meeting, including Board members
· Geelong Regional Library Service (events calendar)
· Reconciliation in the Park (focus on younger community members)
We delivered the 10 sessions to over 200 people in Geelong over a 3 month period: March-May 2013.
55 people now want to help us raise awareness in the Geelong region about Constitutional Recognition in the Australian Constitution.
The 10 sessions were generally provided by covering the following three components:
· Local context – including the history of Djillong (Geelong) and acts of local reconciliation since settlement
· Status of Constitution Recognition – the sections of the Constitution which the ‘Expert Panel’ have made recommendations to change
· Developing a stronger local link up of groups & activities connected to wider reconciliatio.
Handouts were available, and links to websites. These included –
· www.djillong.net.au about the history and culture of the Wathaurong people around Geelong
There was unanimous appreciation of the sessions, and even in the public forums we received no negative feedback, except understandably some scepticism about the outcomes of this approach to reducing discrimination against Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People.
We found that the majority of participants in all of the sessions have not read the Australian Constitution, and so had no awareness that it still contains sections which are directly discriminatory towards Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People as well as failing to recognise them as the First Peoples of these lands.
On the other hand, we found that a significant proportion of local Aboriginal people are unsure whether the plans to update the Constitution will in fact deliver the level of recognition and equality they believe is necessary, with particular reference to achieving sovereignty and putting Treaty in place.
We didn’t reach the younger age group (under 35 years) successfully in this stage of the project. A number of participants have offered support to achieve this in the future.
The Planning Group is now discussing a follow-up stage 2 of the Geelong Constitutional Recognition Project, extending beyond the Geelong area and developed through a broader partnership approach.