Aussies hit the road for constitutional recognition
Dust, blisters and body-aches were not enough to stop ANU student Charlee-Sue Frail participating in an epic walk from Melbourne to Adelaide in support of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Legging it from Melbourne’s Federation Square on 26 May along with thousands of other supporters of the Journey to Recognition, Charlee-Sue and other Recognise campaigners had 700 kilometres to reflect on the hopes and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
“The next logical step that we can achieve as a nation is recognition in the Constitution,” Charlee-Sue said.
“I’m hoping that constitutional recognition will be another step towards building great relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”
Through funding from the Australian Government and private donations, Reconciliation Australia’s Recognise campaign is driving the Journey to Recognition to build support for recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution.
“We want to ensure as many Australians as possible have the opportunity to put their hand up to support constitutional recognition,” Recognise Deputy Campaign Director Tanya Hosch said.
“So we decided to put our feet to the road and get moving around the country, taking the important message of recognition from community to community. Ultimately, we want Australians of all walks of life to come together and achieve an overwhelming yes vote at a referendum.”
In the short term, Tanya said the Journey aims to increase awareness and participation amongst the broader Australian community of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Constitutional recognition is not an easy feat and nor is traversing this vast and incredible country—our physical journey is representative of our commitment to this campaign for change,” she said.
For participants like Charlee-Sue, community support was the inspiration to keep on going.
“It was so magical to be a part of something so big and then to meet so many wonderful people along the way,” she said.
“So many people were shocked to learn that we don’t have recognition within our Constitution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but they know that it should be there. And, just as importantly, we are overdue to deal with the lingering elements of our Constitution that are racially discriminatory.
“Everyone was just so passionate about it…it really builds on your commitment to the cause.”
So far, Journey participants have walked more than 700kms, cycled over 1200kms and driven over 1800kms, stopping in 47 communities and have met thousands of people along the way.
“The reception has been quite incredible,” Tanya said. “We have been welcomed so generously with open arms into so many diverse communities across the country—including local Aboriginal groups, farmers, businesses, councils, community groups and schools. People want to know about this, and we're glad we can get the message out there.”
With the first leg of the Journey to Recognition almost complete, devoted participants are edging their way closer to the traditional meeting ground of Gulkula in North East Arnhem Land for the annual Garma Festival on 9 August.
“It’s going to be so inspiring to stop at the Garma Festival,” Charlee-Sue said. “A lot of people in North East Arnhem Land have driven constitutional recognition for a long time so this is the perfect place to finish the first leg of the journey.”