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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2162


Ms LAMB (Longman) (17:19): First, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where I have the privilege of speaking today, the Ngunawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present and, of course, their emerging elders. This is their land, and so it was, peacefully, for many, many thousands of years, but, since the arrival of the British boats in the 18th century, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional owners of this land, have suffered. I can't pretend to understand or possibly even begin to understand how hard it must be to endure the pain that Indigenous Australians have. I cannot possibly begin to understand or pretend that I'm not ashamed for what they have experienced, because I am. What I can do, though, is say sorry. I can say sorry, and in my role as a federal parliamentarian I can advocate for change to make sure that neither they nor any other race of people have to ever, ever suffer such horrible treatment again. So, to all Australian people with Indigenous heritage, I say sorry—I say sorry, just as Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister at the time, said sorry on behalf of our nation in 2008. It was a very small gesture, of course, but it meant so much to so many people.

I even remember where I was on that day, 10 years ago, when Kevin Rudd delivered that monumental speech. I was in Musgrave Park in South Brisbane watching a television underneath a big tarpaulin that had been erected. I remember the feeling that was in the air on that day. It was a stillness that comes with anticipation. I remember how time slowed down when the Prime Minister got up on his feet. I remember the tears when he uttered those words: 'We say sorry.'

If you know of Musgrave Park in South Brisbane, it's of really significant cultural importance to First Australians. As a remnant of the former Kurilpa Aboriginal camping ground, the park has been used as a meeting place for Indigenous people for many, many years. The park lies just a stone's throw from Boundary Street in West End. Today, Boundary Street is a major road in Brisbane's south. While it may be a major road in Brisbane's south, it carries a really shameful history. For many years, Boundary Street acted, as the name suggests, as a boundary line. At certain times on certain days, this line was used to separate Indigenous people from the other inhabitants of Brisbane—absolutely shameful. Six days a week at 4 pm, and all day on Sundays, Aboriginal people were exiled to the far side of Boundary Street by troopers with stockwhips—absolutely shameful. This racist policy has long since been abolished, thank goodness, but the street name remains as a reminder of our city's shameful past.

This clearly isn't the only shameful policy that our nation once inflicted upon our Indigenous people, who weren't even recognised in our national census until after 'yes' was recorded in the 1967 referendum. But what stands out as our true national shame is the policy which Prime Minister Rudd was acknowledging in his landmark speech—that is, the stolen generations policy. Official government estimates suggest that between one in 10 and one in three Indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970. These children were taught to reject their heritage and that their culture was evil, and they were forced to adopt white culture. Their names were often changed. They were forbidden to speak traditional languages. Children were forced to assimilate through foster families and institutions where abuse and neglect were far, far too common. I can only imagine the pain and hurt that these families suffered and, to this day, continue to suffer. So, again, I apologise on our nation's behalf.

I still struggle to understand, though, why my electoral neighbour, the member for Dickson, Peter Dutton, could be so heartless as to boycott that apology on that day. Now Australia looks back on his actions on that day as truly disgraceful and as a strong signifier of that man's character. I have to say that, despite the member for Dickson shamefully digging in his heels, we are making progress.

Labor will establish a compensation scheme for members of the stolen generation in the Commonwealth jurisdictions, as well as a $10 million national healing fund to support the stolen generations and their families. Labor will immediately begin consulting on the form of a voice to parliament for First Nations people in response to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Referendum Council recommendations. But we all know that policies and legislation can only do so much.

My hope for the future comes from people. Having spoken with young people in my electorate of Longman I recognise their great respect for Indigenous culture in the community. I have hope that this respect will bring with it the change that is needed, because we have still so far to go. I recently heard a young Indigenous woman as she spoke at the Lions Youth of the Year ceremony at St Columban's College in Caboolture last week. She is a very, very proud Wiradjuri woman—I think I pronounced that correctly—from the south-west inland region of New South Wales. She spoke with such great strength. She spoke with strength and she spoke with dignity. The speech she gave at Lions Youth of the Year was titled 'I call for a treaty'. It was powerful and full of hope. It was a five-minute speech, and when she closed the speech she said:

I am looking forward to a future where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be seen as equals with separate identities that date back over tens of thousands of years.

This is what we are working towards. We are working towards closing the gap and we are working towards equality. And, while we still may have members of parliament who refuse to acknowledge our past, it gives me hope that there are strong young Indigenous people, like that young woman who spoke at the Lions Youth of the Year, who are looking to our future and shaping our future.