- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload Current Hansard View/Save XML
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
- Start of Business
- QUORUM REQUIREMENTS
- SCREEN AUSTRALIA BILL 2008
- NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE BILL 2008
- SCREEN AUSTRALIA AND THE NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE (CONSEQUENTIAL AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 2008
- TELECOMMUNICATIONS (INTERCEPTION AND ACCESS) AMENDMENT BILL 2008
- DEFENCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT (TRANSITION TO FORWARD WITH FAIRNESS) BILL 2008
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(D’Ath, Yvette, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Turnbull, Malcolm, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Perrett, Graham, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Bishop, Julie, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Rea, Kerry, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Wage Price Index
(Thomson, Craig, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Turnbull, Malcolm, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Parke, Melissa, MP, Smith, Stephen, MP)
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry
(Bailey, Fran, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Campbell, Jodie, MP, Albanese, Anthony, MP)
(Windsor, Antony, MP, Burke, Tony, MP)
(Symon, Mike, MP, Tanner, Lindsay, MP)
(Truss, Warren, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
Bureau of Meteorology
(Livermore, Kirsten, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Mr Brian Burke
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Raguse, Brett, MP, Macklin, Jenny, MP)
(Smith, Anthony, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Hale, Damian, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
- Interest Rates
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- QUESTIONS TO THE SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS
THERAPEUTIC GOODS AMENDMENT (POISONS STANDARD) BILL 2008
TRADE PRACTICES AMENDMENT (ACCESS DECLARATIONS) BILL 2008
- APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 3) 2007-2008
- APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 4) 2007-2008
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS’ AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCED ALLOWANCES) BILL 2008
- HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPORT AMENDMENT (VET FEE-HELP ASSISTANCE) BILL 2008
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2008 MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2008
- Flinders Electorate: Warley Hospital
Newcastle Electorate: Sport
- Regional Partnerships Program
- Business Enterprise Centres
- Forrest Electorate: Roads
- Dental Health
- Murray Electorate: Water
- Start of Business
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- Workplace Relations
- Indigenous Affairs: Landownership
- Mr John Lawton
- Bangla Fair
- Fadden Electorate
- Lindsay Electorate: Old St Marys Council Chamber
- Cowan Electorate: Graffiti
- Kingston Electorate: Sport
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 3) 2007-2008
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 4) 2007-2008
- APOLOGY TO AUSTRALIA’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Ms BURKE (5:10 PM) —Firstly, I would like to pay my respects to the Wurundjeri, the traditional owners of the land in my electorate of Chisholm, and their elders past and present. Last Wednesday was a profoundly significant day in the life of this parliament and of this nation, a day on which the parliament finally apologised to the stolen generations. I wish to add to the many expressions of sorrow from both sides of the chamber my own apology.
As an Australian and as a member of parliament—the very institution that passed laws and policies that caused the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents and families—I am sorry. I am sorry for the unspeakable pain and the enormous grief, suffering and loss that these actions inflicted upon the many thousands of members of the stolen generations who continue to live with the impact of these unjust policies every day. The grief and injustice is ongoing and resonates today. I cannot begin to imagine the torment experienced by those who were wrenched from their parents and, in turn, those who had their children torn away from them—terrible acts that were the result of policies generated by the Australian parliament and based on nothing more than race. It is my fervent wish, and the wish of Australians, that the apology delivered by the parliament will, in the words of the Prime Minister, ‘remove a great stain from the nation’s soul’ and truly allow the nation, united in the spirit of reconciliation, to build a new future together.
Many here in the House have mentioned the overwhelming reactions of those present here in the chamber and across the nation to the Prime Minister’s speech. I was deeply moved to be in the presence of those from the stolen generations who made their way here to hear an apology that many had thought would never take place—certainly not in their lifetime. The sense of joy and relief, felt by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike, that finally—finally—the parliament, and hence the nation, had recognised and acknowledged the truth of the suffering of the stolen generation was palpable. It was truly a momentous and moving day, a historic day, and I am proud to be a member of the government that initiated the motion and of a parliament that provided bipartisan support.
This mood in the nation for reconciliation was reflected in my electorate of Chisholm. I was inundated with hundreds of impassioned letters and emails from constituents expressing their wholehearted support for an apology. Many schools throughout my electorate thoughtfully commemorated the morning’s events with their students. Here are just a few I would like to mention: classes at Roberts McCubbin Primary School in Box Hill South and Kerrimuir Primary School in Box Hill North held related activities after watching the broadcast. Mount Scopus Memorial College in Burwood, a very large Jewish school, set up a booth with posters, information and a TV and a DVD replaying the morning’s broadcast. Avila College in Mount Waverley, which has a long relationship with the Indigenous community through Alice Springs, published information in their daily bulletin in the two weeks leading up to the day of the apology. On the day, they began with prayers and watched the broadcast in class, and erected a stand on which they, too, said they were sorry. Last year I actually conducted a reconciliation forum for school captains through to year 12 at Avila, and it was a truly moving occasion to hear our youth also expressing their sorriness.
As the House is aware, the nation was confronted with those shocking practices through the Bringing them home report, which outlined the devastating stories of thousands of Indigenous families being torn apart by forced removal up until as recently as 1970. Let no-one forget that these practices occurred not in the distant past but as recently as 1970; there are many Indigenous people, now in their late 20s and early 30s, who were removed from their families under these policies. In enacting these policies, different states had separate laws which governed their implementation. Children could be put into an institution or mission dormitory. Some were fostered or adopted, often after spending time in a children’s home. Many spent time in more than one institution or foster family. Many were sent out to work. Others were moved from institutions or foster families to detention centres or psychiatric hospitals.
Today I want to tell the story of Kutcha Edwards, a member of the stolen generation who grew up in children’s homes in my electorate of Chisholm and who is a member of the Whitehorse Friends for Reconciliation group. Kutcha is an acclaimed singer-songwriter, and I have Kutcha’s permission to tell his story. I am also happy to say that Kutcha was here at Parliament House to watch the apology last Wednesday, along with seven of his siblings. It was a very important day for Kutcha and his family. Kutcha was 18 months old when he was taken from his parents in Balranald, in south-west New South Wales, along with five of his brothers and sisters. Kutcha and his siblings were eventually reunited at the Orana Children’s Home, in Burwood in my electorate, where they remained for years. Kutcha also spent part of his early childhood at the Allambie children’s home in Elgar Road.
We can only try to imagine the grief, pain and suffering Kutcha and his siblings went through growing up without their family in institutions—taken from their parents because of unjust government policies. I knew many children who lived in Allambie, Orana, the Burwood Boys Home and the Burwood children’s home as my family was involved in church camps where we took children from these institutions for outings. These were predominantly foster children from white Australian families. I did not meet any Indigenous children, but I knew of their suffering from having been separated from their families and living in these homes. These homes have now been shut down, which in one way is a very good thing. But I knew of the pain and suffering of the children I met. They had been removed from their families and placed within fairly similar cultures—I cannot begin to imagine how hard it would have been for Kutcha and his siblings to undergo this transition.
Although he met his mother at the age of seven, Kutcha was not reunited with her until he was 14. Because of their separation, he says he found it hard to recognise a bond with his mother when they were together again. Kutcha says he was at parliament last Wednesday as part of a family collective to accept the apology on behalf of his mother and father, who he says tragically ‘went to their grave’ wondering what they had done wrong to have their children taken from them.
Kutcha is passionate about his music because he sees it as a way of letting people know that the stolen generation was not a myth—‘it did really happen to real people’. Kutcha has also used his experiences to help others. For the last 19 years, he has worked in the community at various organisations in Melbourne such as the Aboriginal Community Elders Services, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, the Fitzroy Stars Youth Club Gymnasium and the Koorie Open Door Education school at Glenroy. He is particularly interested in working with Koori youth to empower them with a strong sense of self-worth, self-expression, self-belief and self-determination.
Kutcha’s trip to Canberra was supported by the Whitehorse Friends for Reconciliation. I want to make mention of the great work that the Whitehorse group does in my electorate to further the progress of reconciliation, and to thank them for supporting Kutcha to make it to that very special day. I also want to pay tribute to the tireless work that the Wurundjeri elder Professor Joy Murphy does for her people in the name of reconciliation. Joy is a tremendous advocate for her people but more importantly for the broader community in bringing these two cultures together. I had the honour and pleasure of Joy conducting a welcome to country ceremony in my electorate office not long after I was elected in 1998. It was truly one of the most moving experiences I have had. A group of Aboriginal elders squashed into my tiny office in Box Hill. We decided that a smoking ceremony probably could not be conducted there; we would probably get in trouble. But passing the gum leaf around was a magnificent occasion and I would encourage others to enjoy that wonderful experience we all had the other day when parliament was opened.
In his speech the Prime Minister left no doubt that it was the laws enacted by parliament that brought about the stolen generation, and that it was the deliberate policies of the state in the years 1910 to 1970 that led to between one in 10 and one in three young Aboriginal children being removed from their families. The Prime Minister provided the example—one of many on the historical record—of the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, whose words make clear that the practice of Indigenous child removal in this country was predicated solely on the basis of race.
The shameful goal was that children of ‘mixed descent’, particularly those with fairer skin, would be absorbed into the wider community so that their unique cultural values and identities would disappear. The goal of assimilation was vigorously pursued. Children and their families were discouraged or prevented from keeping in contact; lies were told that parents did not want to speak to their children or were dead; children’s names were changed or children were raised to hate their Aboriginality and to not speak the language; mission schools that were misleadingly put forth as providing a sound education provided nothing more than preparation for a life of menial labour; sexual abuse in foster homes and institutions was prevalent.
There is no question that against the odds some did find happiness in their new homes and were cared for by loving foster families or, less frequently, a conscientiously run institution. That is not in doubt, but this outcome is not the intention of the policy. As the Prime Minister and former Prime Minister Keating asked: imagine if this had happened to you. The effect upon Indigenous children and parents has proved devastating. As the Bringing them home report points out, every Indigenous family has been impacted by the forced removal of children. By saying sorry, we acknowledge the pain of the stolen generation and the truth of what has occurred—that it did take place—and we wish to make amends for the harm caused. It is by our facing up to the past that true reconciliation can take effect and the nation can, united, address the injustices that face Indigenous Australia today. As Sir William Deane, the former Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, stated:
It should, I think be apparent to all well-meaning people that true reconciliation between the Australian nation and its indigenous people is not achievable in the absence of acknowledgement by the nation of the wrongfulness of the past dispossession, oppression and degradation of the Aboriginal peoples.
However, this necessary apology is only a start. As we commit in this apology to never again allow injustice to be inflicted upon Australia’s Indigenous people, we must do all we can to tackle the overwhelming disadvantage they face. The statistics are stark and shocking. Whether it is in educational achievement, employment or life expectancy, Indigenous people lag far behind the rest of the population. We must use the goodwill generated by the apology as a springboard to close the gap. The resolve is there. The Prime Minister has put up real targets that the government can be judged on and measured by. And it is in the spirit of a new beginning that the Leader of the Opposition has also grasped this challenge by agreeing to head, with the Prime Minister, a joint policy commission to develop and implement an effective housing strategy for remote communities over the next five years.
With the goodwill generated by the apology, the nation can, in the spirit of reconciliation, put behind itself the failings of past parliaments and move forward together, making real inroads in fighting these inadequacies. It is now my wish, the wish of the parliament and the wish of this country that, through acknowledging these past injustices and asking forgiveness, and through the generosity of Indigenous Australia accepting that apology, a spirit of healing can take place in which we can confront present-day Indigenous disadvantage. I wholeheartedly support the motion put forward by the Prime Minister. I commend the motion to the House.