"I have a growing disquiet that asking, that expecting, the majority of Australians to vote YES in a referendum to include first peoples in the body of the Constitution and to removing the clause that allows discrimination based on race, in the next three to five years or so, will fail."Dr. Kerry Arabena, Professor and Director of Research for the School for Indigenous health in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, addressed the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference on 20 July 2012.
The program notes for her presentation 'No Winners, No Losers: Just Truth, Justice and Mercy - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Constitutional Reform' included:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a history being framed by Australians as either competent or lacking competence; whether we need to be controlled or whether we can take responsibility; whether we are affected by the problems or we are the problem; or whether we are one of you and able to be included, or we are different and need to be excluded. In this presentation, Kerry Arabena explores national discourses relating to Constitutional reform and explores how language is being used to bring about a 'Yes' vote in the referendum. First she reviews the current discourses framing the First Peoples' responses to the Constitutional reform process. Second, she identifies a campaign based on a concept of preciousness by way of providing an alternative discourse than that which is currently popularised in some media. Finally, she explores what a discourse would need to achieve - what compelling narratives do we need to build a positive public response that allow us all to participate in nation building projects across Australia?