Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae said today this announcement signals the start of an important further step in the reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, following on from the Federal Government's apology.
"The Constitutional acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians as the first peoples of this land would signal our maturity as a nation and mark us as a country truly committed to justice, peace and the wellbeing of all its peoples," Rev Macrae said.
UAICC National Administrator, Rev Shayne Blackman also welcomed the announcement, "We're encouraged to see that this process will be initiated by a panel that places Indigenous representation front and centre of the discussion.
"It has been a long held desire of Aboriginal and Islanders to have their identity and rights affirmed in the Constitution as a prelude to an effective national framework of Indigenous policy and programs that will deliver truly equitable socio-economic outcomes.
"Only a system of governance that engages Indigenous people to have a full and unconditional voice in their destiny will enable a realisation of their inherent strengths and God-given abilities," said Rev Blackman.
The Uniting Church itself began the process of approving its own Constitutional change in 2009 to acknowledge Indigenous Australians as the first peoples. This process has recently concluded with overwhelming support from across Australia. The place of Indigenous people, and some aspects of their engagement with those who came to Australia later, is now incorporated into the Preamble of the Uniting Church Constitution.
Rev. Macrae said the constitutional process within the Uniting Church, "has at times been a difficult journey, but it's always been rewarding. Through this process we've grown together, learned to listen better to each other, worked harder at reconciliation and we have gained renewed respect for each other. We hope for the same enriching journey for our country.
"We'll certainly participate in opportunities to contribute to the content of any constitutional changes. We trust that the national will for justice which marked the 1967 Referendum, and the spirit of hope that pervaded the day of the National Apology, will prevail across the country from now until the day of the referendum," Rev. Macrae said.