AFTER a journey of more than 30,000 kilometres and almost two years, Moree became the 202nd town to welcome a nation-wide campaign to change the constitution this week.
Joint campaign director, Tim Gartrell, said ‘Recognise’ had travelled by foot, bike and canoe to get here but was taking 4wd utes across the vast expanses of Western NSW.
“We’re on a relay across Australia to raise awareness and talk about constitutional recognition of indigenous people,” Mr Gartrell said. “We had near 40 people come to our two-hour-long talk on the issue followed by a lovely lunch provided by local woman Mona Fernando.”
Armidale elder Steve Widders joined Mr Gartrell and Charles Prouse, Belinda Frail and Emma Cother on this leg of the journey.
An Anaiwan man with strong ties to Moree and the Kamilaroi nation, Mr Widders appealed to all Australians to get behind the campaign.
“It is not only about Aboriginal Australians, because we’re only two per cent of the population, and we need to reach out to the other 98 per cent of Australia to support it if we want to change the constitution,” Mr Widders said.
“So we’re asking them to consider what benefits it will bring, consider the fact that Aborigines were not considered important enough to mention in the constitution of 1901 and now after 114 years it is time to change that.
“People should know that we are the only Commonwealth country in the world not to officially recognise its original inhabitants and so we are lagging way behind countries like New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa.”
Mr Widders said he also joined the campaign because it called for more recognition of indigenous languages.
“The Anaiwan were one of the first people to lose our language because we were one of the first areas colonised,” he said. “The Kamilaroi have their own dictionary and that’s something that we would like to have too.”
Mr Widders joined the relay on the North Coast and travelled with it through Maclean, Nambucca, Bowraville, Coffs Harbour, Armidale and Inverell.
“Moree is the last stop for me, but the journey continues for Recognise and I hope to work with them again in the future,” he said.
The relay now headed out to Collarenebri, Walgett, Brewarrina and will culminate its journey through Western NSW with an event in Bourke on Saturday.