Cootamundra became a haven for conversation on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people on Monday when ‘Recognise’ came to town.
Mark Yettica-Paulson of the Recognise movement spent his early high school years in Cootamundra and was pleased to be back in to the area.
“We are all about having a conversation face to face with ordinary Australians,” Mr Paulson said.
Recognise aims to equip all Australians with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision should a referendum on constitutional change be called.
Under the current political climate, Australia could be just 18 months away from a historic referendum being called.
Mr Paulson explained that section 25 of the constitution talks about the power to ban a race group from voting.
“That belongs to an era in the 1900s, it is not reflective of who we are as Australians now,” Mr Paulson said.
He further stated that section 51 gives the Commonwealth the power to make special laws for any race.
“It must be made clearer to ensure that powers can only be used in a positive sense and can’t be used against Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people,” Mr Paulson said.
Acclaimed journalist Stan Grant, himself a Wiradjuri man, also spoke eloquently and passionately on the subject.
He has close links to Cootamundra with his aunt Eunice Grant having been taken from a mission in Cowra and place in the Cootamundra Girls’ Home.
There she became number 658, she no longer had a name or family identity.
Advocating for change, Mr Grant said “we don’t know where this journey will lead, but we do know it is a journey we have to take”.
Cootamundra’s Bob Glanville spoke about his upbringing with his family.
“We very much integrated into the community but we never assimilated; we were always recognised as being different,” Mr Glanville said.
Following the presentations by speakers, community members were called on to ask questions of the panel.
After this, the Recognise team toured the former Cootamundra Girls’ Home, now Bimbadeen, a training and conference centre.