Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (centre) and Aboriginal leaders Pat Anderson (left) and Mick Gooda listen as Professor Patrick Dodson addresses the first meeting of the Referendum Council on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in Sydney on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (centre) and Aboriginal leaders Pat Anderson (left) and Mick Gooda listen as Professor Patrick Dodson addresses the first meeting of the Referendum Council on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in Sydney on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. PAUL MILLER

Indigenous will lead talks on Constitutional recognition

BOTH sides of politics have pledged that indigenous recognition in the Constitution will be led by Aboriginal Australians, as the Referendum Council met for the first time on Monday.

The council, led by reconciliation figure Pat Dodson and eminent lawyer Mark Leibler, has until July to report back to the government.

Efforts for a referendum on indigenous recognition in the Constitution had all but stalled under Tony Abbott.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten have promised it will be a priority and released a joint statement saying indigenous-led talks would be "a central element".

Mr Abbott had refuted an Aboriginal-led process, instead preferring options that would quell concerns among constitutional conservatives.

But his comments gave rise to wider indigenous calls for a treaty with indigenous Australia and separate indigenous calls substantive recognition, not just a "symbolic" gesture.

Indigenous lawyer Professor Megan Davis said last week any reform needed to make a significant difference to Aboriginal lives.


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