Quarterly Essay 55

Race and Recognition

Noel Pearson

Release Date:
September 2014
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Over the next two years, Australians will decide if and how Aboriginal people will be recognised in the Constitution. Professor Greg Craven writes: 'We have a committed Prime Minister, and a committed opposition. We have a receptive electorate. There will never be a better time. We have no choice but to address the question. If constitutions deal with fundamental things, our indigenous heritage is pretty fundamental.'

In this notable Quarterly Essay, Noel Pearson shows how the idea of 'race' was embedded in the constitution, and the distorting effect this has had. Now there is a chance to change it – if we can agree on a way forward.

In place of race, Pearson argues the constitution should  recognise Australia's indigenous people. His essay seeks to show what constitutional recognition means, and what it could make possible: true equality and a renewed appreciation of an ancient culture.

About the Author

Noel Pearson is a lawyer and activist and director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. He has published many essays and newspaper articles. Up from the Mission (2009), a collection of his essays, charts his life and thought from his early days as a native title lawyer to his position today as one of Australia’s most influential figures.