ALTERING Australia’s constitution can wait, but facing historical injustice can’t, Indigenous campaigner and dual Olympian Nova Peris said during a visit to Albury.
Speaking at the NSW Local Government Aboriginal Network Conference, Ms Peris said Indigenous people’s spiritual connection to country should be affirmed more.
“I don’t believe in changing the constitution,” she said. “Let it wait until we become a republic and then you start fresh.
“I think what this country needs before all this other stuff is a truth and reconciliation justice commission of some sort.
“The reality is the history of this country, it’s brutal and we can’t change it but don’t ask Aboriginal people to move on, it’s not a matter of moving on from it.”
The conference at Albury Entertainment Centre heard about Ms Peris’ early life as well as a sporting career that brought Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals across hockey and athletics.
In 1996 she became the first Aboriginal Australian to win Olympic gold.
“Everyone knows the history of my sporting achievements, but what’s more important is how did I get there?” Ms Peris said.
“I’m nothing without the resilience and the struggles of my mum, my grandparents, who were all members of the stolen generation.
“Quite often Aboriginal people are always told to get over things, but you don’t just get over a part of your life that is so big in defining who you are. It’s your genetic make-up, it’s your identity, it’s everything and for a lot of people there’s a missing part of that.”
Ms Peris also focused on the positives, for example attending last year’s Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association conference.
“It blew me away how many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors there are,” she said.
“That year 12 attainment, it used to be an unrealistic goal; now it’s just the norm.”
She urged Indigenous young people to keep on aiming high.
“They have every goddamn right to be excellent, every goddamn right to be brilliant,” she said. “And I think that’s the message that we need to continually tell our Aboriginal kids, they can be whatever they want to be.”
Ms Peris praised Through Their Eyes, a book by Indigenous young people that was launched on Wednesday at Albury Library Museum, and gladly accepted a copy.