Murdoch policy student contributes to constitutional recognition debate

November 4, 2014

A Murdoch University student was invited to give evidence to Federal politicians after submitting her assignment on the question of the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Cassie Houghton, who is studying for a Master of Public Policy and Management at the Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Affairs, was not required to make the submission for the assignment but wanted to challenge herself and “contribute to a really important issue”.

She told Liberal MPs Ken Wyatt and Christian Porter and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert who sit on the Joint Select Committee investigating the issue that recognising Indigenous people in the constitution was a complex matter and she was not sure the majority of Australian people were engaged enough to support that change in a referendum just yet.

“The recognition of Indigenous peoples is such a fundamental issue and has been on the political agenda for such a long time with seemingly no action yet,” said Ms Houghton, who juggles her study with a full time position at the WA Department of Housing.

“My submission suggested that the issue is not as prominent as it should be. I think the Recognise movement is doing all it can, but may not be resourced enough to really get out into the community and promote it. I thought that I could contribute to some real world policy making by doing my research and giving my evidence-based opinion.”

Ms Houghton said she was quite nervous before giving evidence to the Committee at a special public hearing in Perth but also excited to be involved in the democratic process and buoyed when Mr Porter said he would award her a HD for her submission.

“Having some of my academic work essentially peer reviewed on permanent record in Hansard is a big step in the academic world,” she said.

“I could tell that the Committee members were genuinely interested in what I had to say, and they were very encouraging. I could tell that they were all very passionate about the issue, and I felt very privileged to be able to speak with them.

“I now have more confidence in the democratic process, and with politicians. There are stereotypical views of politicians from different political parties, but it was really obvious that the Committee members really want to make meaningful change in the community.”

The submission assignment was set for students taking the new Parliamentary Studies unit, which is being co-taught with the WA State Parliament. Ms Houghton said state parliament staff provided excellent advice to help her tailor the assignment and her lecturer Professor Matthew Flinders, who is the Adjunct Distinguished Chair in Governance and Public Policy at the Sir Walter Murdoch School, provided examples from his work at Westminster.

“Obviously great minds think alike because Professor Flinders did give me a HD for the assignment. I would like to put forward a motion of thanks to Hon. Christian Porter!”

Ms Houghton is hoping the Master in Public Policy and Management will help her career in the public sector although she’s not ruling out running for Parliament herself.

“With this qualification, and the experience I’ve gained with it, the doors are all open. I just have to decide which one to walk through!”

Print This Post Print This Post

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!