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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28725

Mr RUDDOCK (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) (4:40 PM) —On behalf of the Minister representing the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, I move:

That, in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, the House approves the following proposal for work in the Parliamentary Zone which was presented to the House on 25 June 2001, namely: Construction of Reconciliation Place.

As part of the government's commitment to the ongoing reconciliation process, the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, announced on 22 May 2000 that a reconciliation square, as it was then called, would be constructed in the national capital. Following a national design competition, the National Capital Authority proposes to construct Reconciliation Place in the parliamentary zone—that is, section 56, Parkes.

Reconciliation Place will provide a focal point for contemplation in the telling and sharing of the stories of reconciliation. There is a physical and symbolic connection to Commonwealth Place via a grand ramp. The offices of Reconciliation Australia are to be located in Commonwealth Place. Reconciliation Place will also provide a pedestrian connection between the National Library of Australia and the High Court of Australia, which is currently linked to the National Gallery of Australia by a bridge.

Reconciliation Place comprises a grassed mound sited centrally in Parkes Place. Extending towards the National Library of Australia and the High Court of Australia is paving which, together with the mound, forms a pedestrian promenade. The ramp from Commonwealth Place splits at its intersection with Reconciliation Place and curves around the northern edge of the proposed central mound. The new paths extend from either side of this new central grassed mound, and it is proposed that a water feature be included in the mound. Along the paths are sited `slivers'—the designer's terminology for displays—which tell the stories of reconciliation. The designer's intention is that the landscape features—the mound, the paths and so on—provide a setting or a framework for the slivers. It is intended that the initial construction contain four slivers and that further slivers telling different stories be added to the place from time to time. The slivers are an essential component of the design and critical to its success. Their subject matter and the design is yet to be finalised. Each sliver requires an individual artistic input: each sliver would be individually lit and include artwork and text and may be constructed in stainless steel, stone, timber or similar quality materials.

As the Parliament House vista is on the Register of the National Estate, the Australian Heritage Commission has been consulted and has advised that it supports the project. The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories has considered the proposal and has agreed to the proposed works. Approval by the houses of parliament is sought so that construction can commence on Reconciliation Place. Details of the slivers, the water feature and lighting are yet to be finalised and it is proposed that these be submitted separately to parliament for formal approval in August 2001.

The approval of both houses of parliament for works to construct Reconciliation Place in the parliamentary zone is sought under section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974. The Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Senator Ian Macdonald, has lodged copies of the text in the table office of both chambers for the information of honourable members and senators.

I want to pay tribute to the designers and say, as Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, that I think that this project is a very important national project in the context of reconciliation, because it will be a symbolic representation of the path that we have been on nationally. It will, I think, be a symbolic representation of much of our history: the stories that can be told will be there—the good and the bad. If we are going to deal with reconciliation, if we are going to deal with our history, there needs to be that opportunity.

I take this opportunity to thank those who were associated with the supervision of this competition and those who played a role in the judging of it. My parliamentary secretary, Chris Gallus, has played a particular role in relation to this, and I thank her for her work. The member for Hughes, Danna Vale, was involved in the development of the project and the ultimate selection of this design through the competition that was held, and I thank her for her involvement. They will both speak, I imagine, in relation to this, as will others. I commend this development to the House, because it is one of the more important and symbolic opportunities that have been taken. Reconciliation Place, when it is completed, will be a very important and focal point of the reconciliation task that we have all been involved in.