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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1948


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (19:29): I rise to speak to this motion. I thank the honourable members who will also speak on it. It is a little bit after the event, but not too far after it. When it was listed it was appropriate to have it on the record. This motion is in recognition of the fourth anniversary of the apology to stolen generations on 13 February 2012. The apology was a milestone in reconciliation and healing in Australia. The apology to stolen generations was the right thing to do and it was long overdue.

I remember the debate in the community and how, after it was done, people felt good. That was true right across Australia and even beyond our shores. The notice taken of it internationally and regionally took a lot of people by surprise. That feedback came to all of us and it reflected well on Australia. The impact of the apology to stolen generations has been significant. It is significant symbolically. People often have a debate about symbolism and what is practical. Symbolism is important. It is a key feature of our society and of communities. We recognise, celebrate and commemorate through symbolism in every walk of life. It is no different for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I sometimes get a bit annoyed about the debate, because we have to recognise there is a place for all. Symbolism and putting things right are important, as is healing. Recognition of a wrong done is a way to help the healing. Goodness knows there needed to be healing.

Symbolism is something the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists raised in talking about constitutional change, as my colleague the member for Hasluck would know because we were on the expert panel. The college talked about constitutional change in relation to the impact that it would have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The college said:

It would have a positive effect on self esteem and improve mental health. We all know that if our self esteem and our mental health improve, there are good practical, individual and societal outcomes as well.

I am linking doing something that is symbolic to the impact that it can have on people and communities, and the flow-through of that is practical. It is important that we remember that.

On the fourth anniversary, on 13 February 2012, a few initiatives were undertaken. It was the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, who launched on that day the documents that will be kept as a repository. She talked about how those documents will reflect our history and the ongoing journey we are taking to continue the process of healing. Yes, there is healing, but I would rather talk about reconciliation, because reconciliation is important. What the minister said on the day was that these documents represent a story of courage and determination—a determination to provoke the public consciousness of our nation and get recognition— (Time expired)