The only speech at the Constitutional Convention which attracted a standing ovation was the one given by the late Senator Neville Bonner.
His speech, “My heart is heavy today… How dare you?” of 4 February, 2008 may be found on this site. In it, he argued strongly for the retention of our existing constitution.
There has been a discussion in recent times that the Aboriginal people should be recognized in the Constitution. This was revived in 2007 by the former prime minister, Mr. John Howard.
Such recognition was to be included in the preamble to the Constitution which was the subject of a referendum in 1999. This coincided with the republican referendum and was also defeated.
ACM took no position on the preamble.
...further divisions among republicans…
Arnhem Land powerbroker Galarrwuy Yunupingu says that constitutional recognition would be meaningless unless Australia first becomes a republic. This is the subject of a report in The Australian of 25 April, 2008, “Forget treaty: Pearson, Yunupingu”, by Natasha Robinson and Patricia Karvelas).
But Mr Yunupingu will not be content with any republic.
He does not express a preference for any of the known models, but is hostile to the Westminster system.
He says that an Australian republic would be hollow at its core if it did not recognise and confront the devastating realities of colonialism for indigenous cultures.
"Call the republic, number one," Mr Yunupingu said. "And then immediately after, call the constitutional reform. We are entering a new era which is Australia's own, going away from the Westminster control to a new era."
Mr Yunupingu said the republic and constitutional reform questions were inextricably linked, with the "deliberate injustices" that occurred under British colonisation demanding correction. "It will be corrected through a republic," Mr Yunupingu said in Darwin yesterday.
"Republic is a vehicle to that correction."
Ms. Robinson and Ms.Karvelas say that Mr. Yunupingu's comments are likely to be met with nervousness in the Aboriginal community, with many believing constitutional recognition for indigenous people should not be mixed up with the republic question, as it was in the failed referendum of 1999.
There will be nervousness too among republicans generally as they see any hope for unity unravel.