Australia is not a racist country but parts of its constitution are racially discriminatory, Australian of the Year Adam Goodes says.
“I’ve never said Australia is a racist country but there are things in the constitution, right now as it stands, that leaves room for people to discriminate against race,” Goodes said.
The Sydney Swans legend, who last year famously took a stand against a schoolgirl who called him an “ape” during an AFL match, was speaking at an event in Sydney calling for indigenous people to be fully recognised in the constitution.
Successive federal governments have considered a referendum on amending the 1901 document and an expert panel recommended change in 2012.
There is no planned date for a referendum, which would need to achieve a national majority and the support of all the states and territories, though the next federal election is one possibility.
“We need to fix the parts of it that still allow discrimination against Australians based on their race,” Goodes said.
He said it was “dear to my heart” to have a constitution that recognised the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Australia’s indigenous people.
“This is the next step in reconciliation.”
Senior Australian of the Year Fred Chaney, a former federal minister for Aboriginal Affairs and a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition, said change would be a “logical next step” for Australia.
He said recent comments made by federal Attorney-General George Brandis that Australians have a “right to be bigots” had sharpened opinion against racism.
Mr Brandis made the comments earlier this year in relation to amending the Racial Discrimination Act by repealing section 18C, which makes it unlawful for someone to publicly “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or a group of people.
“I’d be very surprised if the attorney general didn’t regret that,” Mr Chaney told the event in Sydney on Tuesday.
“On the other hand it has sharpened the sense in the Australian community that we don’t want to be a bigoted community.