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Live. Today at the National Press

Club - this year's Australian

of the Year, Professor Mick

Dodson. He's already sparked a national dialogue about national dialogue about the

date of Australia Day. Today,

Professor Dodson will outline

how he plans to use his role as

the nation's newest top

citizen. Mick Dodson with

today's National Press Club

address.

Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to the National Press

Club and today's National

Australia Bank address. It's a great pleasure

great pleasure today to welcome

back, for the third time, I

think it is, Mick Dodson, who

is among other things a lawyer,

campaigner for Indigenous

rights and most recently

Australian of the Year. Before

I introduce Mick, I would like

to invite on behalf of the

traditional owners of this Territory, Matilda House to traditional owners of this

introduce Mick. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much. Mr Ken

Randall, Professor Mick Dodson,

and somewhere there is Tom

Kalma, and of course, two very

important people, Mick's wife important people, Mick's wife

Tony and his daughter Shannon.

And of course, everybody else

that's here today. Sharing a

journey and hopefully we'll

have a great conversation some

time along the road. Wolgulu speaking country, that's our

country, the land of the

country, the land of the

Numbry. We are the descendants

of this land. Our heritage, our

culture, our past and present,

and the future. Our dancers,

our songs, they are welcome to

this country. Respect and it

identifies us as the identifies us as the people of

this land. The Numbry of the

Wolgulu speaking. With that,

I'd like to say from our

ancestors Mick Dodson, you are

the best tenant we ever

had. (LAUGHTER) And I

congratulate you for all the

things in the past that you

journey and the things have done and I know that our

journey and the things that we

want to do for the health and well-being and everything of

our families and the rest of

Australia, thank you and

welcome. Thank you. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much, Matilda. Mick Dodson is director of the centre director of the centre for

Australian National University Indigenous studies at the

when he's not accepting awards as Australian of the Year and

he was Australia's first

Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander social justice

commissioner in equal right commissioner in equal right

opportunities commission. He

represents Indigenous people of

the Pacific on the United

Nations permanent forum on

Indigenous issues. Quite a portfolio. When the Prime

Minister announced Mick's

appointment as Australian of

the Year last month, he

described him quite correctly

and modestly as a courageous

fighter for reconciliation and

for closing the gap between

Indigenous and Indigenous and non-Indigenous

Australians. It's a very timely

day to have him back. Please

welcome Mick Dodson. (APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much, Ken. And thank you to the National

Press Club for inviting me to

speak here

speak here today. And also

thank you to the National

Australia Bank for sponsoring

this occasion. And also thank

you Matilda for yet another

warm welcome to your ancestral

lands - oh there she is over there. A lot

there. A lot of important stuff

happens around your ancestral

country - not that today's that important, but in those

important events, your presence

adds a great significance to

them. The other thing Ken I

wanted to say is that where do

I get a bell like

I get a bell like

that? (LAUGHTER) I think the

dean of the college of law

morning teas on could use one of those at our

Wednesday! (LAUGHTER) Perhaps

I need to speak to the MCA.

What's significant about

Matilda's welcome is about

Matilda's welcome is about

country. When we talk about traditional country in this

way, we mean something that's

beyond the dictionary

definition of the word. To us

Aboriginal Australians, country

has an entirely different has an entirely different

meaning. When we say country,

we might mean homeland. Or

tribal or clan area. And we

mean something more than just a

place on the map. And we're not

necessarily referring to a necessarily referring to a

geographical space or place.

We're talking about the whole

of the landscape, not just the

places in it. For us, country

is a word for all the values,

places, resources, stories and places, resources, stories and

cultural obligations associated

with the area and its futures.

It in fact describes the

entirety of our ancestral

domains. All of it is domains. All of it is

important. We have no

wilderness. Nor the opposite of

wilderness. Nor anything in

between. Country is country.

It's the whole cosmos.

It's the whole cosmos. Country

underpins and gives meaning to

our creation beliefs and the

stories of creation form the

basis of our laws and explain

the origins of the natural

world to us. All things natural

can be

can be explained. So when we

acknowledge traditional

country, those increasing ly

people do so in Australia, it's

no empty ritual. It's to

acknowledge who we, the Aboriginal

Aboriginal people. Are. And our

place in this nation. It really

is to take a special note of a

place and the people who belong

to it. And this doing that it to it. And this doing that it

seems to me all Australians

might have a clearer notion of

who they are and where they

stand in relation to their

history and the land they live

in. And were they to understand what Aboriginal Australians in. And were they to understand

mean by "country", they would

have gone some of the way to

understanding the oldest living

cultures in the world, which of

course is no small thing. And

by such small steps on the path

of knowledge, you see we will

more easily find each other.

Now some might think this

ritual of respect is purely ritual of respect is purely symbolic. And therefore

unrelated to all that needs to

be done to improve the health

and well-being of our peoples.

And indeed to bring

reconciliation to reality. But

it's not it's not unrelated. It's one of the essential tools we need to

get the job done. And a symbol,

after all, is only a symbol

when it stands for something

concrete. Now I'm sure Governor

Phillip didn't think Phillip didn't think that

planting the British flag in

Sydney Cove on January 26 was a

gesture without meaning. Even

when that time there was so

much work yet to be done. He

knew how practical that symbolism

symbolism was. Ladies and

gentlemen, last month, when I

was given the honour of being named Australian of the Year

for 2009, I said I wanted to

talk about the protection of

the rights and human dignity of all

all Australians. And I said

that sometimes we don't speak

up when we should. Or we don't

act because we think the

problem's too hard or that it

will somehow magically go away. And

And I said that I believe we're

better than that. And watching

the reaction to the tragedy in

Victoria, who could doubt that

we are? Today I want to talk about three

about three things. I want to

explain what I meant by those

words on 25 January this year.

I want to talk about my plans

for this year and I want to do

my best to put an end to this

misguided notion that

reconciliation comes in two

discrete and opposing forms.

Practical, meaning worth while

and effective, and symbolic,

meaning near enough to useless.

Now I've thought a lot in the last couple of

last couple of weeks about what

changes I would like to see by

26 January 2010, and where I

would most like to make a

contribution as Australian of

the Year. What I'd like to

the Year. What I'd like to see

is every Australian child next

Australia Day geared up and

ready for the start of the 2010

school year. And I want to be

confident that those kids are gonna get the best education

this country can give them. I

want it for Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander children

and I want it for other

children, other Australian

children, who aren't getting it

now because of where they live,

because of poverty, or because we've failed

we've failed them. Now don't

get me wrong, this is a "no

child will live in poverty" statement. Rauf (LAUGHTER)

This here is the father of two

ambitious young women. Saying

that my children and your

that my children and your

children, all children, have a

right to the best education

this country can deliver. And

the fact that many of our

children are not getting the

best education is something

none of us should tolerate. Or

dismiss as dismiss as inevitable. Or see

as too hard to fix. I truly

believe we're better than that.

And my call this year to each

and every one will be to play a

part in fixing it. That every child

child deserves a good education

in a country as prosperous as

ours should be able to provide

it, I think, are things we all

agree on. And we've been agreed

on it for a very long time, and

yet we still can't do

yet we still can't do it. And

that failure should be an

offence to our pride. Our

benign self-image and our

profession of faith in the fair

go. And maybe it is. Maybe that's

that's why we fob off the

failure by blaming the kids or

the parents or the teachers

while we look for one size fits

all solution, silver bullets

that just don't exist. Maybe

these habits are symbols

these habits are symbols of our

denial. Well, I want to spend

my year as Australian of the

Year doing what I can to see

that children who are not

getting a good education in

Australia today get one in the

future. And many of these children of course children of course are

Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander kids. And in doing

this I'm going to take a phrase that the Prime Minister has

been using lately and talking

about the global financial

crisis. And for me, that on

education we're all in this

education we're all in this

together. And if we're all in

it together, to deal with the

crisis that has been decades in

the making, and upon us for

less than six months, surely

we're all in it together to

assure the future of the nation

by giving our kids the chance

by giving our kids the chance

to find and realise their

potential. Now, ladies and

gentlemen, education is

something we've let slide

miserably in recent decades.

And we've failed a lot of

children in that time. And many

of those children, a

disproportionate number, are

Indigenous children. And we've

been failing them for a lot

longer. We need more investment

in teachers and their

professional

professional development. So that we can reasonably expect

them to be good teachers. So

more good students will grow up

wanting to be teachers. And

more teachers will believe in

the worth of their vocation and

in the potential of every child they

they teach. We need investment

also in curriculum development.

For a start, we need curricula

that teaches pupils and parents

can understand. School reports they can

they can understand. These things are surely the bare

minimum. And we need good minds

and commonsense to be brought

to bear on it. Not education

theory or bureaucratic

theory or bureaucratic fashion.

We need curricula that will fit

students for fulfilling useful

lives and gives them, all of

them, at least a roughly equal chance

chance at happiness. Now, it

was never an easy task. But our

shame won't be failing our

shame will be in not trying as

shame will be in not trying as

hard or as intelligently as we

can. Might I also say, we

should be giving every

Australian child a chance to

learn about this country's

Indigenous culture and history.

Indigenous culture and history.

It is the oldest surviving

living culture on the planet.

And as the Prime Minister says,

it's the culture all Australians can take a great

deal of pride in.

deal of pride in. Now, when I

was named Australian of the

Year I said I wanted to

encourage Australians to uphold

and protect the human rights

and human dignity of all

Australians. All our fellow

citizens. And I said I wanted

to halt this - bring an end to

this false distinction between those who

those who see themselves as

pursuing this goal and the goal

of reconciliation by practical

means. And those who are cast

as feckless symbolists. I say let's

let's begin with education. And

I think we can all agree that a

good education is a right that

all Australian children have.

It's their right. I think we

can all agree in bestowing

can all agree in bestowing knowledge, skills, opportunity

and a chance at happiness, and self-sufficiency, education

also bestows dignity. And all

agree, I think, that this right

and this dignity are a

and this dignity are a good

more, a great deal more, than

merely symbolic. They have

profound practical effects.

Now, this is not to say that we

don't have our fair share of

holly symbolism. And it's not

too hard to think of some Mott

forrus examples. Billions of

dollars set aside that never

reach teachers or children. Now, that's mere symbolism.

Mere symbolism in education, as

in health and much else, is

when those who are paid to take

responsibility do not take it.

It is also provide

It is also provide ing the

money for infrastructure and

not seeing that it's serviced

and built properly. Putting up

schools and not seeing the kids

inside of them learn anything.

And mere symbolism is the

poisonous habit of political

spin. Of grandstanding before

the media. And then walking

away as if the mission is

accomplish ed just by saying it

has been. Now, of course, not

every bureaucracy

every bureaucracy or bureaucrat

or politician in this country

can be accused of this. Not by

a long chalk. But it's true

enough to cost a lot of kid as

good education. But of course

they're not our kids so why

should we worry?

should we worry? And anyway, if

they want their kids to be

educated, why don't they move

to town? Well, I think you go

and tell that to generations of

white kids who've been educated

in remote parts of Australia.

No-one told them they had to move.

move. These people live where

they do because that's their

home. Their homeland

communities. These communities

are safer and measurably

healthier. And it's their land. It's

It's their country if you like.

It's the place where they live.

And their kids have a right to

education just like all other

Australian kids. Ladies and

gentlemen, this example is one

of many that lead me to saying

of many that lead me to saying

that we need to bring to

education in this country a

much greater sense of urgency,

of necessity. And we have to

make up our minds to turn the

right to education into a reality.

reality. And before the mission

can be accomplished, we have to

make it our mission. And first

up we have to agree on the

education mission. You, me,

every level of government,

teachers and principals,

students and parents, business

and future employers. Future

employers of our children.

University and churches. Indigenous leaders and other

Australians of influence and power. And

power. And I mean educated in

the sense of being able to

read, add up, do maths with

skills and knowledge,

competent, creative, able to

make their way in the world.

Able to discover their

potential and make something of

potential and make something of

it. Things that can be measured

in concrete ways. This is what

accountable means. Accountable

to our children. Now, I'm

to our children. Now, I'm not

an expert on education. Or on

its delivery. But I've worked

alongside people who are.

People like Chris Sara, who's

here today. And I've lived in

different parts of this country

where I've seen examples of schools delivering

schools delivering good

education and bad education.

And education that's not even

worthy of the name. I've

listened to a lot of people

recounting their own

experiences and I can reflect

on my own. I mean, I'm standing

here today as a product of a good

good education. Though for many

it's probably not the type of

education that would suit them.

Education I had probably

wouldn't suit many kids.

Indigenous or non-Indigenous. I

was born in the Northern Territory, when the place

Territory, when the place was

run by the Commonwealth

Government. I went to the

government-run primary school

in Katherine. It was a good

school, as I remember. Had good

teachers, good infrastructure.

We turned up to school. By the time I

time I was 10, both my parents

had passed away and I went to

live with relatives in Darwin.

Now, they had their trust in

the Catholic education system.

So I went to the convent

school. Then all-boys college

in Darwin and eventually to a

boarding school in western

boarding school in western

Victoria. So 9 out of my 12

years of primary and secondary

schooling I did with the

Micks. (LAUGHTER) That's not

why they call me Mick! Mick the

Mick! (LAUGHTER) I'm very much

a lapsed Mick, I'm afraid! And

it was an excellent

it was an excellent education.

It prepared me for university.

And also made me ready if a bit

raw, if a bit idealistic f a

bit naive, it made me ready for

life.

life. Now a good education

won't look the same to every

child. And examples of success

in education are similar across

Australia to what we see around

the world. As essential elements in

elements in closing gaps for

Indigenous peoples. They centre

on the community development

approach that's all about

working respectfully with

communities. They involve

lifting expectations of what's

possible.

possible. Supporting the

aspirations of communities

rather than imposing solutions

that fit a certain ideology,

it's about having the courage

to be creative and flexible in

developing models that work in

developing models that work in

particular contexts. And it's

about being prepare ed to make

and fix mistakes along the way.

And they universally involved

ingredients that some of

ingredients that some of you

might think are merely

symbolic. Like recognise ing

and developing students' sense

of themselves as Aboriginal people.

people. Now, ladies and

gentlemen, I think it's a very

interesting concept that a

sense of who you are and where

you come from is of no practical

practical value. So dinky Di

Aussies can kiss themselves

goodbye. I said earlier, I want

to say goodbye to this

practical versus symbolic

reconciliation. Let's kiss it

goodbye. 'Cause

goodbye. 'Cause it's nonsense.

What does impractical

reconciliation look like? Tell

me! It's a false dichotomy with

its roots in the late and

unlamented culture wars. I've

unlamented culture wars. I've

never made any sense, but

nonetheless provided an easy

way of providing people who are

essentially working towards the

same end result. And it's been

constructed on the assumption

that Australians will only

that Australians will only

tolerate action and spending on

Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander peoples if they can

see bricks and mortar. Well, I

say we're better than that. We

all know that children need

more than a roof over their

heads to succeed. We know love and understanding and

encouragement are just as

important. And we know that how

people feel about themselves, whether they feel

whether they feel valued and

respected, has a whole lot to

do with how they face their

problems. Reconciling is an

active pursuit. It's about

getting with what's need ed and

what we know to get results we

all want. And that is a

all want. And that is a mixture

of measures that target body,

mind and spirit. And

reconciliation is about always

taking the next step, whatever that may

that may be. Brick by brick,

the Prime Minister said. We'll

rebuild those towns in Victoria

brick by brick. School by

brick by brick. School by

school. Community centre by

community centre. And we need

to do the same with

reconciliation. And each little

reconciliation. And each little

success creates a platform for

more success. A little more

self-esteem. A little more sense of what's

sense of what's possible. It's

not so much a grand policy,

half so much as attention to

detail. And persistence. It's

about making sure it works. Now just lack

just lack we commemorated the first anniversary of the

apology. We were all reminded

of how we felt that day. The

effect it had on the nation.

How we looked in the mirror

that day and we liked what we

that day and we liked what we

saw. So-called symbolic steps

like the apology, like

acknowledging country. Like

recognition in the pre-amble to

the constitution.

the constitution. Like giving

an Aboriginal child pride in

their culture. These are all

very practical things that

change the way we think and

feel and the way we act. To

quote the Prime Minister, the

apology was practical in terms

of how I as a human being

relate to others. But also how Indigenous and non-Indigenous

Australians will go forward. Now, ladies and

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Noel

Pearson, Warren Mundine, Marcia

Lang tonne, Patrick Dodson,

Lowitja O'Donoghue, Colleen

Hayward, tom Hayher and younger Indigenous leaders like Leah

Armstrong, Lariss Brent, Chris Sara, Jason

Sara, Jason Glanville, the list

is endless 'cause there's many

of 'em coming through, we all

agree the apology was a good

thing. I think we can all agree

we want our kids to grow up

strong in their culture and

smart in their abilities.

smart in their abilities. Now,

we might differ on how we go

about this. And that debate

should be encouraged rather

than being interpreted as some

sort of personal battlefield.

But I'm confident we can come

together around this simple ambition for

ambition for children's

education. Simple, but an

ambition that encapsulates all

the complex and interrelated

elements of closing the gaps.

What I say is that I want us to

carefully examine all approaches rather than falling

into the trap of imagine

into the trap of imagine ing

there's just one solution that

sits - that fits every single

situation. Or one mantra under

which every problem and every

community can find shelter. So

ladies and gentlemen, for

ladies and gentlemen, for my

part, this is what I will be

doing in the next 12 months. I

will be responding to those

dozens and dozens of invitation

I've received from schools

around the country. And I'm

sure there will be many, many

more. I hope not too much teachers

teachers are watching this show

today! (LAUGHTER) Even my diary

has its limits! But I want to

accept as many of these

invitations as I can. And I

want to go out and talk to

people in school communities.

At my workplace at the Australian National University,

Australian National University,

I will continue working with my

colleagues to get our

reconciliation action plan in

place. So that we cannot only

attract more Indigenous

students but we can also

enhance our

across-the-university equity strategy.

strategy. And I want to strive

to create an education

environment at our university

that offers those students the

best possible chance of

success. I will also be talking

to people across Australia to

gather as many examples of

success as I can. And

success as I can. And success

involving Indigenous and

non-Indigenous kids, in

private, in public and

community schools. Examples of

parent-focused initiatives,

teach er training, bilingual

education, everything I can

find that seems to be working.

And I want to encourage actions

that make good intentions

that make good intentions mean

something. 'Cause actions speak

louder. And I challenge all of

us to think a new, because

through new thoughts, old

habits will be broken. New

ground will be broken. And if like

like me you believe education

is the principal pathway to

reconciliation, you need to act

on that belief. Indigenous or

not, if you're a parent, you

need to value your kids'

education. Get them to school,

take an interest in what

they're learning. If

they're learning. If you're a

non-Indigenous parent, find out

how many Indigenous kids your

children go to school with. And

whether your kids learn about

their history and their

culture. Do you know about your

local Indigenous history? And

its culture?

its culture? Do you know enough

to help your kids to learn? And

if you're a teacher, demand

only the best from yourself and

from your pupils. And if you're

a government official, working in

in the Education Department,

ask yourself,, what are you

doing to help those schools

that achieve great results?

What are you doing to help

those schools that are failing?

What do you do about schools

with poor attendance records or

poor literacy outcomes? What

did you do this week, last

week? What problem are you

going to fix today before you

go home? And if you're a

university lecturer - I only do

what my colleagues call

celebrity guest spots - but if

you're a university lecturer,

what are you teaching the next

generation? Do you know why

there are so few Indigenous

students at your university?

What are you doing about

getting 'em there? If you're an

employer, do you offer

opportunities for Aboriginal

trainees? Do you offer hope for

students that their education

will lead to work that values

and respects them for who they

are? Or do you hesitate because

of the stereotypes? Are you the

kind of employer who, given a lucrative government contract

for a job in an Aboriginal

community, puts up a fence

around the site and employs not

a single Indigenous person and

trains no-one? If you're

someone with skills looking for

something fulfilling, have you considered taking them where

they're most needed? Folks,

these are questions we need to

be asking if we want better

outcomes for Indigenous kids.

But we also need to ask the

same or very similar questions

for all disadvantaged kids who

are not getting a decent education. And throughout this

year, I want to examine and ask questions and work towards

improving education outcomes

for all Australian kids. As an Aboriginal man I have particular responsibilities for

my own community, for Aboriginal brothers and sisters

and their children. As

Australian of the Year, I have

responsibilities to all

Australian children. And I

intend to fulfil both sets of

responsibilities as best I can.

And to the media people here

today - let me ask that you not

see yourselves as removed from

this effort. You are citizens

of this country. At least I

think you all are. And you have

lives outside of your jobs. You

care. And even inside of your

professional roles, if you can

put in a bit of yourselves, you

will find ways of contributing

to this thing that I ask. 26

January 2010. Every child

geared up for the start of the

school year. A school to go to

with chirs and tables,

blackboards and computers.

Teachers ready. Confident.

Determined. Equipped to impart

knowledge and confidence. Shoes

on kids' feet. Breakfast in

their tummies. Well rested.

Ready to learn. Willing to

learn. Able to learn. That's my

hope and I'm gonna do my very

best to make it real. Thank

you. (APPLAUSE)

Now for our questions. Leo

Shanahan from the 'Age'

newspaper. My question relates

to your role as an adviser on

that body. You said in the past

that past problem with ATSIC

has its lack of ability to compel the government to act on

its advice. Do you propose that

this body have some kind of

legislative power and how would

that be done? I don't have any

proposals for the new body. I

haven't made my position clear

to anybody. Some people have

suggested I have a position but I

I don't. It's been an

invention. Hi Mick. How's the

chook shed, Deb? It's very good! (LAUGHTER) Australia

signed t major United Nations

treaty decade s ago but as

you've outlined today we

haven't really implemented the

right to an education under

that particular treaty.

that particular treaty. Would

you support I guess a bill of

rights incapsulating those

social and cultural rights as

part of the reconciliation

agenda? If Australia adopted a

full bill of rights, would that

help reconciliation to be

delivered? I don't know. I

could see how it might. I'm not

sure if I'm entirely sold

sure if I'm entirely sold on a

bill of rights yet. I know

there's an inquiry going on. I intend to talk to people

involved in that. I've been

invited to talk to people

involved in that I haven't done

so yet. I haven't fully

formulated my views about this.

Perhaps I'm leaning on balance

that it's a good idea, but

perhaps you ought to look for some other constitutional

some other constitutional

options as well at the same

time. Kevin Rudd has committed

to closing the gap, but are you

concerned that the immediate

disasters of the global

financial crisis rebuilding in

Victoria will I guess subsume

the money and the political

will to make that a priority in

the near future? I support

fully the idea that we close

the gaps. I might disagree with

the government about some

aspects of the policy. And also

that it's one component of

that it's one component of what

needs to be done overall. The

target is a long-term target

I'm not that concerned about

the present financial crisis

and the impact that it might

have on spending that's needed.

Because we can make pad justs

to that. And bearing in mind that this

that this approach is supported

by the Parliament, not just the

government, and we're talking

about 20 years down the track.

That doesn't mean to say we can

use things like the financial

crisis to excuse or delay

action. We've still got to try

and act as best we're

and act as best we're able to.

And already there've been

commitments made by government, financial commitments made by

government in all sorts of

areas. Not as much as some of

us would like but the last

budget had some. There was

measures recently by COAG, for

example, in relation to teacher training, for

training, for disadvantaged

kids. I mean, there are things

happening, but as I say, many

of us would like to see much

more happening, but again it's

not as if we're sitting on our

hands or as if the government

has been sitting on its hands. You said that

grandstanding, spin, benchmarking,

benchmarking, grand policies,

one mantra and the start-again

syndrome isn't the way forward

for education reform. Some

people might see that as a description of the Rudd

Government's education revolution. Can you tell us

what you think of the plan s

they've rolled out so far and what they're planing to do over

the coming years? Well, I've

just mentioned one, respect to the COAG decision.

the COAG decision. I think it's

4.2 billion. I don't think

that's spin. That's real

dollars over the next four

years, in part for training

teachers to fix literacy and

numeracy problems in schools.

It's money that's coming

It's money that's coming out of

the stimulus package that will

go into schools. There are other initiatives, particularly in the Northern Territory, in

relation to housing. I think there was 400 million extra

dollars in the budget. I think

that has to go beyond the

Northern Territory. We can't

just be north tern focused

because there is an

intervention happening there.

That sort of money needs to

pour out to the rest of the

States and even to the ACT, although everybody thinks

although everybody thinks we've

got everything here. I just

think that's, you know, Matilda

House's

spin. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

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