Delivering an address this morning to Melbourne Law School Alumni, Senior Partner Mark Leibler said the main point of difference between the work of the Referendum Council on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and previous inquiries was the historic consultation process undertaken with Indigenous peoples.
“While the Council took respectful account of the work undertaken by earlier bodies, none of those bodies consulted, as we have, to ascertain the wishes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians themselves - the people we seek to recognise.
“We believe this to be the most proportionately significant consultation process ever undertaken with Indigenous Australians. It most certainly engaged a greater proportion of the relevant population than the constitutional convention debates of the 1800s, from which the First Peoples were excluded.”
Mark said that while the Council’s report had not yet been released by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, who received it on 30 June, the outcomes of the Regional Dialogues and the Uluru Statement became “primary source material” in the Council’s deliberations.
In terms of consultations undertaken with the broader community, Mark said the clearest take-out message was that the wider community will not endorse a referendum proposal that isn’t acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Now that my job as the Council’s Co-Chair is done, my next role in this extended national discussion will be as Mark Leibler, private citizen, who passionately believes that the nation must respond to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“The sense of responsibility I feel for advocating this position is both personal and professional. Through Arnold Bloch Leibler, I’ve been blessed to be able to focus the professional firepower of the firm in the direction my conscience dictates. The overlap has had a profound impact on me.”
To read the full text of the address click here.
To read an edited extract of the speech, featured in today's edition of The Age, click here.