Aussie Opposition calls for Australia Day referendum on republic, indigenous recognition

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-27 10:51:38|Editor: Lifang
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CANBERRA, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has called for a joint referendum on indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution and Australia becoming a republic.

Anthony Albanese, former deputy prime minister and the man widely considered to be the next leader of the ALP, used a speech in his Sydney electorate of Grayndler on Friday to make the suggestion that the referendum should be held on Australia Day so as to create a "platform of unity."

Under Australian law, any change to the constitution requires a national referendum to return a vote strongly in favor of doing so.

The date of Australia Day, currently Jan. 26, has become increasingly contentious in recent years. Much of Australia's indigenous population consider it a national day of mourning, saying it celebrates the day that the country was stolen from the original Australians.

Albanese's speech on Friday came as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Australia's major cities, protesting the date.

He said that holding the referendum on Jan. 26 would mean that the date became synonymous with indigenous recognition rather than the arrival of the British First Fleet in Australia in 1788, making it a day "where we can truly say that we're together as one, as a nation."

"It would mean Australia had a day which recognized our modern history of new arrivals, our continuous history of indigenous Australians dating back now some 80,000 years and a recognition of confidence of us in a modern state," he said.

"Our nation needs to reconcile itself with the past as a precondition of creating a better future, one in which we embrace a common vision of what it means to be Australian in the 21st century.

"Instead of emphasising our differences, let us create a platform for unity."

In his own Australia Day speech, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the overwhelming majority of Australians were celebrating the holiday which marks "a story of enormous achievement."

However, Turnbull, who has strongly opposed any change to the date of Australia Day, said the day should include a focus on indigenous Australians.

"Our history, Australia's history, overwhelmingly is a bright story of success," he said.

"The ­impact of European settlement on Aboriginal Australians was tragic; of course it was. We understand that and there are many wrongs that were done in the past, which we seek to right today."