Over the past year the term Recognition has undergone close scrutiny with the definition being pulled and prodded, twisted and turned to resemble a definition that both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians are comfortable to discuss in open forums and eventually vote upon in the 2013 proposed Referendum.
Recognising Indigenous Australians as the first Australians is set to become next great debate on the national agenda. Acknowledged as a “Once in 50 year opportunity” by Prime Minister Julia Gilard it is with reserved optimism and nervous anticipation I, like many Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians await the 2011 government proposal and subsequent 2013 Referendum. With only 8 of the past 44 constitutional amendments being successful, it will take a movement at the ballot boxes reminiscent of the 1967 Referendum in which more than 90% of Australians voted in favor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being recognised as Australian citizens.
I have recently had the great privilege and honor of being appointed the 2011 Australia Youth Representative to the United Nations, a great achievement not only as a representative of the diverse and optimistic youth demographic across our Nation but as the first Indigenous representative to hold this position since it began in 1999. I feel that my appointment as Australian Youth Representative is a reflection on the youth of Australia and their aspiration to promote an inclusive society.
The Youth Representative is a formal position within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I will be a fully accredited member of the Australian Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly and being based in New York from September-November this year. During this time, I will represent Australian youth and provide them with a voice in presentations to UN forums, such as the General Assembly and in a meeting with senior UN leaders.
I am a strong believer that youth participation and representation in the decision making process, either directly or indirectly affecting the direction of Australia and issues relating to youth, is paramount. Engaging and empowering the voice of the growing youth population will ensure the future leaders of Australia are informed and educated in the importance of an inclusive society with effective decision-making.
Based on the 2006 Census and age population projections identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the total population of Australia in 2011 is approximately 22,596,500 with 9.65% of the population falling between 18 and 24 years of age. In the years leading towards the 2013 proposed Referendum the Australian population is predicted to increase by 2.35% with the population of first time eligible votes increasing by 1.18%.
Promoting the importance of Recognition means acknowledging the existence and validity of a person or group. If the 2013 proposed Referendum is to have the best chance of success; the existence of the growing youth population and the validity of their input needs to be acknowledged and supported with the understanding of the importance of Recognition of the first Australians.
In today’s society the role of young people has evolved from being a silent by-stander to becoming an influential voice with calculated, articulated conviction. Whether in school, the workforce or in everyday life, young people are encouraged to have an opinion and voice their concerns. This ability to communicate and debate should not be limited to the school yards and street corners of society but encouraged to participate at all levels of public debate. Supporting this public debate will become an instrumental component to the Recognition of the first Australians. Education and awareness will become the tools in building a positive movement.
Empowering the youth of Australia with the knowledge of the past injustices and the movements to build an inclusive society will not only promote the positive contributions Indigenous Australians make in society, it will also promote an educated and informed society on Indigenous issues going forward. Supporting diverse and informed input offers differences of perspective, positive debate and outcomes. Engaging this younger generation is important to the positive growth of society, empowerment through the knowledge of a scarcely taught past.
Over the coming 2 years the understanding of Recognition of the First Australians will be tested and debated, it will lead Australia on a journey of discovery in identity and history. It will be a journey that will look to define the term Recognition and first Australians but it will be the existence and validity of the public debate involving young Australians that will ultimately lead to a successful outcome for Australia’s future.
Check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Australian Population Stats
Enrolled to Vote? Do it here – AEC.gov.au
Find out more about the Constitutional Recognition at ANTaR
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