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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 5026

Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (7.29 p.m.) —Senator Tambling was right when he said that the preamble sets the tone. It is quite a splendid preamble because, for the first time, along with the recent ATSIC bill, it tells the truth about the history of this nation—the history that we ought to own. It says:

  The people whose descendants are now known as Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders were the inhabitants of Australia before European settlement.

Fact. It goes on:

  They have been progressively dispossessed of their lands.

Fact. It continues:

This dispossession occurred largely without compensation, and successive governments have failed to reach a lasting and equitable agreement with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders concerning the use of their lands.

Fact. It further states:

  As a consequence, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have become, as a group, the most disadvantaged in Australian society.

That is another fact that we read about almost every day. The preamble goes on to talk about the referendum and the High Court judgment. It states:

The High Court has rejected the doctrine that Australia was terra nullius . . . at the time of European settlement.

Fact. That is why we are where we are now, debating this most important bill. I do not find this preamble one bit odious. In fact, I wish what it said had been enshrined in our constitution.