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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7684

Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (21:50): I rise to speak today about NAIDOC week and the message that it delivers not just for Indigenous Australians but for all AustralĀ­ians. NAIDOC, known as the National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee, organises an annual celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The theme for this year is, 'Change: the next step is ours.'

The electorate of Macquarie has a significant Indigenous history. I would like to acknowledge particularly the Darug and the Gundungurra people, the first people to call both the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury home. It is almost impossible to take a bushwalk through the Blue Mountains without noticing Aboriginal art carved into rock faces along the way. For Aboriginal people, these carvings tell many stories. One that springs to mind is the ancient rock carving called the Flight of the Great Grey Kangaroo, which is located at the foot of the Hawkesbury lookout near Winmalee. Both the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury are fortunate to have several different and important agencies offering services and support and an opportunity to achieve their greatest potential for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. Time today will not allow me to mention every single one. I mention the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre. They do a great job. I acknowledge all of the services for their passion and particularly for their commitment to the next generation.

In the Hawkesbury region, the river was known as the Deerubbin. It was a focal point as a source of food and transport. Yams, a staple food, grew along the banks of the river. On the sandstone platforms the Aboriginals engraved images of animals and mythological figures and in the rock shelters they displayed their ochre and charcoal art. The Hawkesbury is an area that prides itself on its heritage, both Western and Indigenous. This is celebrated by the fact that one of the central meeting places of the Hawkesbury, the precinct which includes the library and the regional gallery, is known as the Deerubbin Centre.

Last Friday I joined teachers and students from Maraylya Public school to celebrate NAIDOC week. I talked to the students about our three flags: the Australian, the Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander. I had the opportunity to talk to them about the Indigenous Australians who have served in this place and in the other chamber. The late Neville Bonner was a Liberal senator for Queensland through the years of 1971 and 1983. He was popularly elected on four occasions. Aden Ridgeway was elected as a senator from 1999 till 2005 and we all know that Ken Wyatt became the first Australian of Aboriginal descent to be elected to the House of Representatives. I would like to give special mention to Mrs Leonie Heinrich from Maraylya Public School, a teacher of Aboriginal descent, who along with Mrs Sadler played a major part in organising the school's celebrations.

Just as there are many local events in Macquarie, there are also many national ones of great significance. Previously having held the shadow portfolio of Veterans' Affairs, I think it is important today that I acknowledge the Indigenous veterans that served our nation. This week at the Australian War Memorial there have been many events recognising the valuable service that Aboriginal men and women have made to our armed forces. For example, today there was a 'Hands on History Trolley' featuring some stories of Indigenous Australian servicemen from the First World War. Around 500 Aboriginals joined that war and 5,000 joined the second. Aboriginal women also played an important role. Many enlisted in women's services or worked in war industries. Like all veterans we owe much to those Indigenous men and women who have served our nation. I know that many, when they joined and served, were treated as equals. In many instances when they returned home that was to be lost.

In Macquarie, lots of NAIDOC events are planned for this week: The NAIDOC concert on 10 July at Richmond and the Lower Mountains Aboriginal Family Fun Day on 13 July at the Faulconbridge Public School are just two of the many events planned. This week is an opportunity for all of us to focus on the significant contribution and the future of Indigenous people for this nation. (Time expired)