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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 8016


Mr PERRETT (MoretonOpposition Whip) (19:49): Last Saturday I was privileged to host a forum at The Murri School in Acacia Ridge, a special private school in my electorate of Moreton. Senator Patrick Dodson and Queensland state minister Leeanne Enoch joined me for a discussion with leaders and members of the Indigenous community, along with leaders of my multicultural community. I particularly acknowledge Uncle Des, Uncle Bob, Aunty Alex, Kim and Victor, Lewis Lee and Surendra Prasad—Lewis Lee is from the Chinese community and Surendra Prasad is from the Indian community. I'd like to particularly thank the Murri School for allowing us to use their school for this special event. It was a fitting venue to hold this important dialogue.

What was the dialogue? It was held because the Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School, known as 'The Murri School', has a special place in the heart of the south side of Brisbane. It was established in 1986 'to promote the development of Indigenous students as independent and skilled people who are culturally, morally and socially responsible, employable, capable of self-fulfilment and of contributing to society'. The school has given Indigenous families a real choice of education for their children. This choice contributes to real self-determination in educational outcomes for students and their families.

The purpose of the discussion on Saturday was also about self-determination. It was about the start of a conversation with local community leaders about the path to constitutional recognition in the wake of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I was very proud to be a part of this special and important event in Moreton. For far too long our First Nations peoples have been left out of this nation's conversation. They're not even on our birth certificate, despite building and actually owning the hospital. For far too long white Anglo-Saxon men especially have made laws without any consultation or even consideration about how those laws will impact on First Nations people. For far too long we have been blind to the learnings of 60,000 years of caring for country by our First Nations peoples. In Moreton, we started the conversation to learn from 60,000 years of lessons—3,000 generations of passing down knowledge. Moreton is the most multicultural electorate in Queensland, so it is important to include our multicultural leaders in this conversation. We can all learn together.

Senator Patrick Dodson, as co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples was able to speak about the interim report that his committee has recently tabled. Senator Dodson shared the work the committee has achieved so far and the work that is still to be done before the inquiry is complete.

The Queensland minister, Leeanne Enoch—the first female Murri minister in Queensland—shares some of my electorate. Leeanne has a special connection with the Indigenous community, so I was particularly pleased she could help host this forum. Minister Enoch said: 'The event occurred at a time when Australia finds itself at a crossroads once again regarding the future direction of First Nations relationships. Comments like those put forward by'—and I will say his name—'Senator Anning last week once again created a platform of division in this country. The discussion regarding constitutional reform, truth-telling and agreement-making—or treaty—are critical at this time in our history. It is through our progression towards an honest, faithful understanding of our past and a respectful, dedicated agreement for the future that extremist views shared in our parliaments would be held to account. This conversation enabled us to take an important first step towards understanding the most powerful path forward.'

It is my hope that this forum held in Moreton is just the beginning, that Moreton can help lead the discussion, that we can work together, bringing all members of the community on this journey with us. I feel deeply that we have a lot to learn from our First Nations peoples, especially in their understanding of caring for this country, the only country that we have. For 60,000 years, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community have looked after and cared for the land to which we all belong. It has, sadly, copped a bit of a hiding over the last 225 years or so, but it is still the only country to which we belong.

I wrote a paper with Senator Dodson recently that touched on this very issue. The paper noted that our Constitution contains a long list of responsibilities of the Commonwealth government, as written by white men back in the late 1890s, but caring for country is not one of them. The sense of duty of our First Nations peoples to care for country has continued, notwithstanding the colonial and federal shenanigans that have gone on around them. A whole-of-country problem needs a whole-of-country solution. We can learn so much from the example long set by our First Nations peoples. We have so much to learn.