Our position on constitutional recognition and reconciliation

Today marks the start of National Reconciliation Week (NRW) 2016 which is a time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to celebrate and learn about our shared history, cultures, achievements and plan for our future.

We'd like to use this year's NRW as an opportunity to publicly state NAATI's support for reconciliation and the recognition of Indigenous peoples in Australia's constitution. 

Why are the NRW dates significant?

National Reconciliation Week is held from the 27 May - 3 June each year and these dates mark significant milestones in Australia's reconciliation history.

May 27: 1967 referendum

The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act, 1967, which after being approved in the referendum became law on the 10th August of the same year.

The amendment was overwhelmingly endorsed, winning over 90 per cent of voters and carrying all six states. The significance of the 1967 referendum was to provide the Federal Government with a clear mandate to implement policies to benefit Indigenous peoples.

The other aspect of the constitutional change, was the enabling of Indigenous people to be counted in population statistics, resulting in awareness of the social and economic disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.

June 3: Mabo

On 3 June, 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision.  The Mabo decision overturned the idea that Australia was ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no-one) at the time of European settlement.    

The Mabo case centred on the Murray Islands in the eastern part of the Torres Strait Islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Meriam people, led by Eddie Koiki Mabo, received recognition as traditional owners of their land. 

The Mabo decision paved the way for the recognition and protection of native title across Australia and led to the Native Title Act.

Native title is the recognition in Australian law that some Indigenous people continue to hold rights to their land and waters, which comes from their traditional laws and customs.

How does NAATI work with Indigenous peoples? 

Many Indigenous Australians living in remote Australia speak English as a second, third or fourth language. As such, there is a high need for interpreters in many widely spoken Indigenous languages.

Since 2012, NAATI has been proudly working with the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service (NTAIS) to improve access to the accreditation system and increase the number of accredited Indigenous language interpreters.

NAATI works collaboratively with a range of organisations to deliver the Indigenous Interpreting Project (IIP) including the Kimberley Interpreter Service Aboriginal Corporation (KISAC), NTAIS, the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre (WMPALC), TafeSA and others.

Learn more about our Indigenous Interpreting Project (IIP) and check out this Indigenous Language Map of Australia. 

Published: 27/05/2016