Constitution at core of talk

Australian Human Rights Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda talks to Kiama High School year 12 student Luke Munro. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

Australian Human Rights Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda talks to Kiama High School year 12 student Luke Munro. Picture: BRENDAN CRABB

KIAMA High School students have learned about the importance of potentially recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution, following a visit from a key indigenous figure.

Australian Human Rights Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda recently visited Kiama High to speak to years 10-12 students about the importance of constitutional recognition.

The school's Aboriginal studies teacher Libby Eggins and colleague Donna Duggan invited Mr Gooda to speak to senior students.

"We did this as they're the ones who will be voting in the referendum in the future," Mrs Eggins said.

Mrs Eggins said about 30 of the school's approximately 1120 students were indigenous.

Australian of the Year and AFL player Adam Goodes is among those calling on all Australians to back a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

Goodes, a vocal opponent of racism, recently told Fairfax Media that times had changed since the constitution was written 113 years ago.

Sydney-based Mr Gooda, 57, regularly travels throughout Australia to speak to youth on this topic.

"I think this is the cream for me and my job, to come and talk to young people," he said.

"I do a lot of talking to politicians, but this is really good. And kids, they're really interested . . . they'll take something away from it."

During a question-and-answer session, Mr Gooda emphasised to students not to vote on something they didn't understand.

"The evidence that we have around referendums is that if people are uncertain, they vote no," he said.

"So the job is to make sure the community understands what's happening here."

Mr Gooda said constitutional recognition was one of his main priorities.

He also believed that to some extent, attitudes towards indigenous Australians had shifted.

"My kids' experience has been a totally different experience to what I did.

"I've got five grandkids; I hope they have a different experience again. It's becoming more integrated. People are accepting people for what they are, personally, [rather] than what they represent."

Mr Gooda said identity was the greatest obstacle young indigenous people faced, which was at the core of the proposed reform.

"Everyone at this age is starting to question where they fit in the world, looking at careers and all that sort of stuff," he said.

"I think it's important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are allowed to be and encouraged to be proud of their culture.

"I think you're seeing it today with some of the really brilliant Aboriginal kids here, just part of the community."

Non-indigenous year 12 student Luke Munro said he learnt a great deal from Mr Gooda's address, and "100 per cent agreed" with the prospect of a referendum.

"It's such an important factor in the direction our country is going in," he said.

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