Taking a step forward
RECONCILIATION Australia welcomes the release of the interim report from the Joint Select Committee for Constitutional Recognition. This is an important step in the long journey towards Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and towards reconciliation more broadly.
The committee received 381 authorised submissions and heard evidence at hearings around Australia since it was appointed in March. The high level of interest in the inquiry is yet another indication of the broad public support for progress on the issues under consideration by the committee and of the widespread desire for the Australian Parliament to make real progress after years of political drift.
Reconciliation Australia is encouraged by the committee’s acknowledgement of the frustration caused by the length of time taken to advance Constitutional recognition and its commitment to secure cross party support for a way forward.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have participated in good faith in each of the inquiries leading up to this point.
This includes the Referendum Council Dialogues (2017), the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2015), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act of Recognition Review Panel (2014) and the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012).
Each of these processes was designed to identify and forge agreement on a proposal to take forward to a referendum on Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, none of the aspirations outlined in previous inquiries have been adequately addressed by our nation’s parliament to date.
The committee must seek to address the unfinished business of reconciliation.
This process cannot finish with the delivery of the report.
The lack of progress on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is not due to an absence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aspirations being put to Australian governments – and it’s also not the result of a lack of support for constitutional change among the broader community.
Despite the disappointment felt at the rejection of the Voice to Parliament proposal last October, the level of engagement with the inquiry shows that people remain hopeful the Committee will progress constitutional reform and complementary measures to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a genuine say in the matters that affect our lives.
Karen Mundine, chief executive, Reconciliation Australia
Treatment is available
WORLD Hepatitis Day is commemorated on July 28 to raise awareness of Hepatitis.
Australia is leading the way for a NOhep future. A big focus for World Hepatitis Day in Australia is treatment, which is an important step on the road to the elimination of viral hepatitis. Effective viral hepatitis treatments are available in Australia to cure hepatitis C and to help manage Hepatitis B.
Since March 2016, new medications for Hepatitis C have been available on the PBS and offer a 95 per cent cure rate. Stigma and discrimination can be a barrier for people to seek treatment, but the important message is that we don’t care how you got the virus – we just want you to have treatment.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C but there is a vaccine for Hepatitis B – which is available through the National Immunisation Program. Vaccination rates are high among people born in Australia, however they remain low in many people born overseas. The best protection against Hepatitis B is to get vaccinated.
If you have Hepatitis, consult your GP today as there are life saving treatment and care options available.
Kirsty Simpson, Hepatitis C nurse, Ballarat Community Health