Adam Goodes - Australian Constitution Still Discriminatory Against Aborigines; Pushes Amendments

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 14, 2014 12:56 PM EST

Australia may be exerting efforts to ban racism among its residents but these are not enough, at least for Australian of the Year and AFL legend Adam Goodes. For one, the country's very own prevailing constitution remains discriminatory against the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"I've never said Australia is a racist country but there are things in the constitution, right now as it stands, that leaves room for people to discriminate against race," Goodes pointed out during his speech at an event to promote the Recognise campaign to change the constitution to accept the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders before European settlement.

The Recognise movement, formed to increase awareness on the issue, has so far gathered over 180,000 supporters at its Web site.

"There's nothing in the constitution right now, not a single word that mentions that anyone was here in 1788, so we need to acknowledge that simple fact and include the First Australians in our constitution at long last."

Goodes was the Sydney Swans legend who took a stand against a schoolgirl who called him an "ape" during an AFL match in 2013.

The 113-year old constitutional document was written at a time when authorities thought the Aboriginal people as a dying race. But they are still there, he said. "Times have changed. Today, majority of Australians know how essential the unique Indigenous cultures are to our nation's very identity, so we need our constitution to catch up."

"So we need to fix the silence of our history in this founding document to reflect to future generations that Australia's history doesn't just start suddenly in 1788 with the establishment of the British colony."

"Australian history doesn't suddenly start in 1788, it begins with the Aboriginal and Torres strait islanders," he flatly said.

Goodes is particularly revved up for a referendum on the Australian constitution since discovering his mother was a member of the stolen generation and that many of his family members were displaced, leaving unanswered questions about his heritage.

"It's been a tough journey. It's been a journey that my mum and my aunties have been on for over 40 years of their life to try and find out where they'd come from," he said.

A draft model of possible referendum questions is expected to be released later this year.

"It's going to take an ever bigger groundswell of popular support for our political leaders to confidently lock in a referendum date," Goodes said.

Federal governments have considered calling a referendum to amend the 1901 document. An expert panel recommended change in 2012.

"I think we need all our brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles to support this movement because I think a lot of Australian people wouldn't get behind this if the Aboriginal people didn't want this for ourselves."

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