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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11473

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (11:38): Member for Brisbane and other colleagues, it gives me great pleasure to rise in support of this motion. Today, I'd particularly like to call out the last part of the motion, which calls on our colleagues here in parliament to better understand the work of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies so that we can work together. Why it's so important for me is that as a member of parliament I have so much to learn, and I know my community is so keen to learn. If I could just put it in the context of a settled history that's 60,000 years old—that's mind-boggling: 60,000 years past. There's no reason to assume that we won't be a settled community for 60,000 years into the future. If you put that together and say, 'At the moment, we're in the middle of it,' we're now in an absolutely fantastic space to ask, 'What sort of nation do we want that brings our history with us and our unique understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories, language and culture?' and to make a nation that's proud of it. AIATSIS is exactly the organisation to help do it.

I'm so pleased to be here today and to be one of the co-chairs of this friendship group, because I know my electorate of Indi needs all the help it can get, not because we're desperate but because we're so keen to continue the work that has already been done—such as Bright P-12 College, which is teaching the local Dhudhuroa language as a year 12 subject and has an exchange program with Wadeye in the Northern Territory. I get invited up there to music festivals, the football game they play and the gathering of local Aboriginal people that takes place. There's a lot happening, but we have a long way to go before we have a better understanding of the settlement history of the last 200 years so that we can move forward into a different future.

What I know about north-east Victoria is that Governor Gipps was very keen to get settlement happening in the country areas. He forged a route from Melbourne that eventually went to Sydney, which is now the Hume Highway. He built white settlement towns and eventually bridges on each of the major rivers in my electorate, from Benalla on the Broken River to Wangaratta on the Ovens and Albury on the Murray. With those settlements came serious dislocation for the people who lived there. The white settlers brought their animals, built their towns and did what they had to do. I've heard a famous story of Lady Franklin's trip up the highway and its consequences for the local Indigenous people when the army and the colonisers came through in great numbers.

Consequently in my electorate of Indi it is very hard to understand that settlement history and find the traditional owners. We have two recognised Aboriginal groups, which is how Victoria works, but while the maps as we know them in theory cover north-east Victoria, the local people say they are not accurate in the description of the people who live there. We need to better understand our history, talk with the local communities and bring that history together. I call on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to come to my electorate and work with us on our history, our culture and particularly our languages so that not only one school does local languages in year 12 but that, as we progress into this next 60,000 years in front of us, all our schools will begin and continue to teach our traditional Australian languages. We will become proud of not only our culture but also our history. We will learn the lessons of 60,000 years and then weave it into the future.

In bringing my comments to a close: I love your strategic plan, I love how you've presented it and I love its design and its clarity. What it gives me, as a member of parliament, is a chance to work in partnership with you to do some of the things that I know you want to do, collaborating with communities and government. Member for Brisbane, I'm looking forward to continuing to partner with you on this to do lots more activities and to bring to the floor of the parliament what a wonderful institution this is and, much more importantly, how we need to integrate our traditional cultures into the future of this great nation.