The ancient Gadigal land of Barangaroo was the setting for the 2016 Recognise Fundraising Gala Dinner, drawing a crowd of more than 600, including prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dignitaries and national leaders.
Representing RQI at this event were committee members Uncle ‘Blinky’ Bill Buchanan and Simon Brooks, who had travelled to Sydney expressly to meet and greet the many corporate leaders and politicians showing their support for constitutional recognition.
“All of our First Australians, all of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians here tonight, we honour. We know that they have seen so much and endured so much. Their resilience is extraordinary,” he said.
“We are so honoured to be here tonight supporting this important, critical, and historical act of recognition.”
Mr Turnbull said the Australian Constitution was not just our founding document, but also in many respects the nation’s birth certificate.
“But it failed to recognise the enduring history of our First Australians. The document that should unite our nation, our whole nation, is missing that important recognition,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Turnbull explained that the Referendum Council, which resulted from the Recognise campaign, was about to embark on regional dialogue to build on the work of the Expert Panel and Parliamentary Select Committee.
But he warned that success was not a given.
“To succeed at a referendum, we must all embrace our shared history and recognise that your languages, your stories, your cultures, are our languages, our stories our cultures. They are uniquely Australian, and something of which we must all be very proud,” he said.
Acknowledging the diversity of opinions about recognition among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Mr Turnbull said that while constitutional change affected everyone, “it must be embraced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders if it is to be proposed at all”.
“If we are to achieve the same success as the 1967 Referendum, we need to galvanise the support of the Australian people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous. 1967 was a people’s movement,” he said.
Quoting the late Faith Bandler, Mr Turnbull said of the ’67 Referendum: “It brought black and white together with more respect for each other and more respect for the country as a whole”.
“Thanks to the valuable work of Recognise, and of those gathered here tonight, there is a high level of public support for constitutional recognition,” Mr Turnbull said.
“It gives me great cause for optimism, because this provides a strong basis to progress to a referendum.”
Click here to read the Prime Minister’s speech in full.