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- 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 ANNETTE ELLIS (6:48 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson, congratulations on your appointment to this important position. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly on the apology that was executed in the chamber last week. I have always been in awe of the fact that I have even had a parliamentary career, and I am very fortunate to have been for the past four terms in this parliament. But I have to say that in all of those years I never quite imagined that an occasion within the parliament—and we have been through a few—would bring quite the level of emotion to everybody involved that last week’s apology did. I have to be honest and say that I, along with lot of my colleagues—on both sides of the House, to be fair—found it a bit overwhelming. I do not think any of us quite imagined the extent this groundswell of reaction within the community would reach.
I am very fortunate, as the member for Canberra, to have had a very local connection in many different respects to the proceedings of last week. I want to first of all thank the community of Canberra at large for their obvious support of the occurrences of last week. That support came from not just getting in touch with offices like mine and thoroughly encouraging us to be part of this apology—and I have to say I did not need encouragement to do that, but I welcomed people’s input—but also the turnout of members of the local community who came out to be in or around this building. It was also reflected in those who in their workplaces—and some I know had the encouragement of their employers; even the ACT government allowed their employees to do this—watched the proceedings on television as a community at work and participated in that way.
Many Canberrans opened their homes. There was a very widespread email connection and other connections made through this community to say people are coming from everywhere and some of them are going to need some accommodation. Many Canberrans opened their homes and billeted people from all sorts of places. Those stories of those experiences are now just beginning to emerge. Some of them are wonderful in terms of the relationships that were formed and the friendships that I believe will, as a result, exist for a long time.
The other connection of course is that this has all happened on the Ngunawal land, which is the land upon which we stand here today, which is my local community as well. I put on the record my absolute admiration for Matilda House and her family and the role that they took, particularly in the welcome to country on the Tuesday morning, which I thought was on par with the occurrence of the next day and its impact and emotional connection. Matilda, in fact, is a very dear friend of mine and I was so pleased to see her, her son Paul and the little ones from their family take part in that very moving service that was done in the Members Hall on the Tuesday morning. I am very proud to see that particular role from our local community.
In saying that, I must congratulate and thank those participants, dancers and performers who came, I understand, from other parts of the country to be part of that ceremony as well. I am sure that all members of the House who were present would say that it was a pretty impressive event. The call went out to say that this should now be a part of the beginning of every new parliament—I have no doubt that is in fact what will happen in one form or another. I really want to endorse that and I look forward to seeing it in the future.
The other comment that I would like to make is to pay my respects in this delivery today to a couple of very prominent Indigenous community services within my electorate who have carried out wonderful work over the years and continue to do so in a fairly nationally leading way. Down here at Narrabundah we have the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service. That is a service that used to exist in Ainslie which has moved to larger premises in Narrabundah in more recent years. When I was involved in the Health is life report, which was tabled in May 2000—to which I will refer in a moment—it was a pleasure for me to introduce members of the committee at the time to the work that was being undertaken by Winnunga, their connection to their community and the breadth of services that they offer. It is a health service, but they actually offer an enormously broad selection of services to their community. I want to pay respect to Julie Tongs, the director down there, and all of the people involved in the work that they have done and continue to do.
I also want to make very brief mention, if I can, of Gugan Gulwan, which is a youth Aboriginal corporation down in the southern end of this town. It is a youth service specifically providing culturally appropriate services for young Indigenous people in my electorate, and the services include a drop-in centre, family support and support services for young Aboriginal people. Importantly, they also offer outreach services for young Indigenous people affected by drugs and alcohol. They take a very positive role in the way that they reflect their culture, promote their culture and the retention of it and run a service or a variety of services that help to ensure a future for their young people.
To those in the parliament particularly—and to a lesser but equally important degree to those out in the community—who for some reason, private to them, do not quite understand or accept the significance, the relevance and the importance of this apology, I need to say that I respect their view. I disagree with it, but I respect the fact that they can hold that view. I noticed—and this is not a critical comment; it is an observation—that there were a small number of members who made a point of not being in the chamber on the Wednesday and I am sorry that that happened. While I respect their views, I am really hopeful that, through the future months and years, they will begin to see and understand the ramifications of the apology and come along with us on this journey that I believe we are now all taking.
In particular, I want to speak today about the Bringing them home report and about the report Health is life: report on the inquiry into Indigenous health. Both of these reports provided me as a member of this parliament with an opportunity that I really needed to grow and learn about the experiences of Indigenous Australians. As a member of the Australian Labor Party—you do not have to be to have this view—I always thought I understood a lot about Indigenous issues in this country. If anybody had said to me, ‘Do you know much about this?’ I would say, ‘Yes, I’m pretty much on top of it,’ but going through both of those experiences really helped me to understand the depth of the issues, the extent to which we need to look at these issues more seriously and the absolute requirement that we work hand in hand with Indigenous communities to attend to the issues of relevance to them.
The Bringing them home report, which came out of the national inquiry into the stolen generation conducted by HREOC, was tabled in parliament in May 1997. What followed the tabling of the report was an extraordinary period of time when Labor members of parliament—and I was one of them—took the opportunity to read parts of the report into the Hansard during our daily adjournment debates. We did that because it was very important for us to have a debate of some kind in the parliament. My recollection is that the debate was not facilitated by the government at the time. So this was our way of putting on the record the importance we saw of the Bringing them home report.
As I said, in May 2000 I was part of the then House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs, which completed and tabled the report Health is life after an inquiry requested by the Minister for Health and Aged Care at the time to look into the status of Indigenous health in our country. That report and the work involved in it took almost two years. It began in one parliament, the committee produced an interim discussion paper and then, after the election and the committee being reconstituted, we successfully sought a re-reference to continue the work. So there was almost two years of a lot of hard slog and hard work to complete the report.
During that inquiry, I was privileged enough to visit an enormous number of places and communities around this country, some of them the most remote places you could ever wish to go. We went to Mutitjulu, Broome, Kimberley, Tennant Creek, Badu Island, the Torres Strait, Docker River, the Maralinga homelands—to all sorts of places—and all sorts of amazing experiences were gained by the committee. This was all happening about 10 years ago. The people we met were very gentle and very welcoming. They took the opportunity to say, ‘You know, we really have been inquired into quite a lot.’ There are libraries in this country stocked full of reports of one sort or another on the status of Indigenous people. It should be said that this particular inquiry was, I think, the first of its kind in about 20 years to be done by the federal parliament. As members of the committee, we felt we needed to explain ourselves when we entered Indigenous country, when they took us in and sat down and had frank discussions with us about their lot. The point was made, ‘How many times do we have to have this experience for people to understand where we are, who we are, what we are and what is required?’
One gentleman who was more or less seconded to our committee for most of that time was a person called Puggy Hunter. I do not know whether Mr Ruddock, who is at the table, knew Puggy through his work. He was an Indigenous gentleman from Broome who accompanied us to an enormous number of those outback, middle-of-nowhere places. He was a conduit for us in approaching Indigenous communities. He passed away a few short years ago, much to our great sadness. He taught us a great deal about understanding health issues, about understanding diversity within Indigenous communities in Australia, and about how we needed to talk with those people to clearly understand the difference they experienced among their own community before we tried to write some prescriptions for them. I use that term very carefully because sadly, up until now, that has been the approach of many of us in trying to deal with some of these issues.
At the end of the day, I really think that the best words that I could possibly use would be the words of Pat Dodson, who in a National Press Club address only last week encouraged us to use this apology as an opportunity to move forward and to work together in true partnership with one another. He said the following:
I agree with the Prime Minister that we have turned a page on the book of our national journey.
We have on the table before us a clean page on which great things may be written.
I do not think there would be, in all honesty—and this includes even those who absented themselves from the House last week—a member who could not endorse that comment to some point. We really do now have an opportunity, given the leadership that Prime Minister Rudd has shown and the determination that we have had as a party to fulfil a very longstanding commitment of policy that we have held very dear, to draw a line. We did see and we do see the relevance and the importance of that apology. It really gives not just this parliament but the whole country an opportunity to draw the line, as Pat Dodson has indicated, to start with that clean sheet, to put all of that other baggage and business behind us and to collectively work towards a far better future for the people of our Indigenous communities in Australia.
When we started the Health is life report in 1997 or 1998—roughly, from memory—we had all of these horrendous statistics about infant mortality, about the age difference in death rates, about the terrible state of health. I think it is fair for me to say that the most distressing thing for me in the 10 years from the beginning of that inquiry until now has been the repeating of those statistics. Front-page stories in the newspapers and speeches in this House have continually given the same statistics. It is about time to now dream of and work towards seeing those statistics change. We can no longer have them repeated; we must see them change. We must have a short-, a medium- and a long-term view on this and realistically work with our Indigenous communities to see the difference that they deserve more than anyone.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—The question is that the motion be agreed to. To signify their support, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.
Honourable members having stood in their places—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank the Committee.