Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution is an important step towards an inclusive Australian society, Reconciliation Australia, Director and Desert Knowledge Australia, Chair, Hon. Fred Chaney AO told a CEDA audience in Perth.
"I want government to do a good job for Aboriginal Australians and to ensure they are included…I want to see them recognised in the constitution," he said.
"We've had wonderful support across party lines on the notion that Aboriginal people should go from exclusion from the constitution to neutrality to actual recognition.
"That I think is an important part of inclusion."
While Australia has taken some important steps in regards to the inclusion of Aboriginal Australians we are still struggling to be truly inclusive, Mr Chaney said.
"That Aboriginal people have full and equal citizenship, that's something else again," he said.
"We've now moved into this thing where as a matter of fact, as a matter of law, it's no longer a politician's dream or a radical's dream, or a bit of political correctness, just a bit of reality.
"We're still struggling with it, trying to get it right, but it's a different ball game, it's a different country, a different Australia, and I don't think all of us have caught up with it yet.
"And until we do, we can't be masters of inclusion, we can't say we've been truly, truly inclusive.
"I think New Zealand, United States and Canada have been better than we've been and we should learn from that experience."
Curtin University, Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Director, Associate Professor Simon Forrest said inclusion and equity are concepts too often confused with sameness.
Many people seem to think that treating and dealing with people the same way is being equal, he said.
"That's ok and fine if you're all equal and the same, however, we're not," he said.
"We're all not the same culturally, and on various social and economic indicators we can't say we are all equal."
Associate Professor Forrest said there is variance in the degree to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are socially, economically and geographically connected to the wider Australian society.
"We, Aboriginal Australians, are under the influence and indeed the control of wider society, or in my words, the dominant or majority cultural domain," he said.
Associate Professor Forrest made reference to Homi Bhabha's concept of the Third Space - a metaphor for the space where two cultures meet.
Associate Professor Forrest said the majority of Aboriginals live in this space where two cultural domains intersect; the Aboriginal cultural domain and the dominant or majority Australian cultural domain.
"It is a place where there is constant turbulence and potential for everyday conflict. You've got two opposing world views…where they intersect there is potential for conflict," he said.
Associate Professor Forrest said an important first step is for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to acknowledge this cultural Third Space.
Additionally, non-Indigenous Australians need to be culturally competent to work with Indigenous Australians in this space, while Indigenous Australians need to become skilful negotiators of these two cultural domains, he said.
Mr Chaney said: "The truth is that, once again…getting the understanding of these domains and of their reality, and having respect for them, is actually at the heart of dealing with this.
"The starting point is respect, the second step is the relationship and the third step is action."