Produced by Kurravi Piggott

Uluru will provide the backdrop for a convention of hundreds of Aboriginal leaders.

The First Nations summit will address the question of constitutional recognition and other reforms ahead of National Reconciliation Week.

It has been 50 years since the 1967 referendum in which Australians voted to include Aboriginal people in the census.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Justin Mohamed says the convention at Uluru is the culmination of a number of regional meetings between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups across the country.

A proposal for a potential referendum will be on the agenda, which would acknowledge Indigenous history in the constitution.

Mr Mohamed says the recommendations from the meeting will guide the government on their next steps.

“It’s something that brings all of Australia together to feel proud of its rich Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture that we have here,” Mr Mohamed says.

“That’s something that our which our document doesn’t do at the moment and we want to ensure that it does.”

He says constitutional recognition would be a meaningful step in a long reconciliation movement.

“It is one of these documents which will guide and set the tone for what can be discussed and what can be reached to deal with the day to day issues that we face.”

Tasmanian writer and activist Michael Mansell has slammed the idea of constitutional recognition as meaningless.
He says acknowledgement will not change the way governments can exercise their powers over Aboriginal People and their land.

“Why muck around with constitution recognition, which is simply saying we acknowledge Aboriginal People were here first, we all know that,” Mr Mansell says.

Mr Mansell says to really empower Aboriginal People communities should look for legislative change.

“We want empowerment through a national Aboriginal body that is reconstituted which has its own source of revenue, Mr Mansell says.

“That body would be authorised to decided priorities and policies for Aboriginal People in consultation for Aboriginal People.”

Mr Mansell also proposes designated seats in parliament and land settlements for those still dispossessed.

University of New South Wales Indigenous rights expert Harry Hobbs says an amendment to the constitution would be a symbolic acknowledgement, without legal effect.

But says the Uluru convention is still a historic event.

“This is the first time in the process that Aboriginal and Torres Strait People have been able to discuss what it means to them by themselves without politicians without other non-indigenous Australians,” Mr Hobbs says.

“So it will be a statement to the Australian people from Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.”

He says while it is impossible to know what the outcome of the convention will be, a consensus on the need for meaningful reform will likely emerge.

The summit will wind up in time for National Reconciliation Week which begins on Saturday.