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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1949

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (19:35): I rise tonight to speak on the motion moved by the member for Page concerning the fourth anniversary of the apology to the stolen generation. The apology to the stolen generation was a very important landmark in our nation's history—for our history records that, since early last century, an estimated 50,000 children, most of them children of mixed Aboriginal and European relationships, were forcibly removed from their mothers and put in orphanages or given to European families. Although those engaged in this policy thought that they were doing the right thing and were acting in the best interests of child welfare at the time, we now understand that this was a great wrong that caused untold harm to those forcibly taken from their families and to the mothers who were left with no knowledge of their children's whereabouts.

Although an apology of behalf of the government and this parliament will never ever take away the pain and heartache suffered by those families, this was an important step in addressing the appalling gap between the living standards of Indigenous Australians and the rest of our nation. Although we must learn from these mistakes of the past, we must also recognise that there will always be times when a government is required to intervene to protect children, as we have seen with the bipartisan intervention in the Northern Territory. However, removing a child from their mother must be the very last resort, only undertaken in the most extreme circumstances.

Although we must confront the past, we must deal with the issues that we face today—namely, that on average Indigenous Australians remain socially and economically disadvantaged compared to the Australian community as a whole. In seeking to close that gap, our goal must be to lift Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' life expectancy, educational achievement, health and social wellbeing. But most of all we must lift their economic opportunities.

Therefore, while motions like this are well intended, we must be very careful not to perpetuate a culture of 'sorry'. If we are going to close the gap, we are not going to do it with welfare handouts and ongoing 'sorry' motions but by providing economic opportunity and celebrating the success of our Indigenous community when and wherever it occurs. Therefore, to lift Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' economic opportunity, we should be using our time in this place to highlight areas where the Aboriginal community is succeeding on the international stage, such as in the art and fashion worlds, as they are today, for today Aboriginal art is internationally renowned. It helps promote Australia to international audiences and it provides an invaluable addition to our tourist sector. It is estimated that Aboriginal art contributes $500 million per year to the Australian economy and is one of our leading export industries. Aboriginal art not only creates real wealth; it brings economic prosperity, provides meaningful employment opportunities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and reinforces their identity and traditions, and has aided the maintenance of social cohesion.

The creativity of Aboriginal art adds economic value. The evidence is that, prior to 2007, the record at auction for an Indigenous art work was $778,000, paid in 2003 for a Rover Thomas painting, All that Big Rain Coming from Top Side. In 2007 we had the first single Aboriginal artwork break the magic million-dollar mark, when a work by Emily Kngwarreye, measuring three metres tall and six metres wide and bursting with colour, called Earth's Creation, sold for $1.056 million. That record was eclipsed only a few months later when, in 2007, Clifford Possum's epic work, Warlugulong, was purchased for $2.4 million by the National Gallery.

It is not just Aboriginal paintings that are setting the trend; it is also Aboriginal fabric design. Today I am wearing a tie designed by Maureen Nampijinpa Hudson, a well-respected and accomplished Indigenous artist, titled Crow Women Dreaming. Hudson began her artistic career in 1981 and her works are now highly sought after by collectors around the world. I encourage all members to show their support for the masterful creativity of our Aboriginal art by wearing ties and scarves designed by Indigenous artists when making speeches in this parliament. The commercial success of our Aboriginal art is one avenue that brings respect and dignity to Aboriginal communities, and it assists in providing economic development and opportunity, thereby assisting to build new relationships between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. (Time expired)