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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2349

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the comment made yesterday by the Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, that the recognition of sacred sites and all the hoo-ha that goes with it hindered progress. That comment is taken from this morning's Courier-Mail. Does a statement such as this indicate contempt for the culture of Australia's first inhabitants?

Senator RYAN —I can only regret that any person in public life in Australia would make such an insulting comment about this country's first culture. It is regrettable but unfortunately it is not atypical of the Premier of Queensland that he should seek to be derogatory about a culture other than his own. In respect of sacred sites, our Government has introduced and passed Federal legislation which gives some protection to sacred sites if they are threatened by mining or some other development, although for the legislation to work properly it needs complementary State legislation. Unfortunately such legislation does not exist in Queensland. The only encouraging thing is that the view expressed by the Premier of Queensland would be shared by fewer and fewer Australians as Aboriginal Australians themselves become more successful in communicating to the rest of Australia the nature of their culture and the importance of sacred sites to it. It has been heartening to see the increasing recognition of and support for Aboriginal culture by, among others, the Christian churches. It is unfortunate that Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who claims to be a Christian, has not adopted the more enlightened views that a lot of Christians in this country have. They have expressed their respect for Aboriginal culture and sites of significance within it.