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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 13 Hansard (4 December) . . Page.. 4602..


MS TUCKER (4.20): Mr Speaker, I ask for leave to move a motion relating to the placement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the chamber.

Leave granted.

MS TUCKER: I move:

That, recognising the need for reconciliation between Australians of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and non-indigenous Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags be placed in the Legislative Assembly Chamber adjacent to the National and Territory Flags.

I have great pleasure in moving this motion this afternoon, because it represents a very positive commitment from this legislature to the process of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. In moving this motion, I would like to acknowledge in particular the Ngunnawal people, whose presence in this region goes back at least 20,000 years. The current indigenous population in the ACT, according to the 1996 census, is nearly 3,000 people. While this includes a large number of the traditional Ngunnawal people, the majority of the Aboriginal population come from outside the ACT. The ACT, as much as any other place in Australia, must demonstrate a genuine ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

Something of which I have been particularly proud in this Assembly is the unity with which we have committed to reconciliation and the apology to Aboriginal people following the release of the Bringing them home report. The response from the ACT's indigenous community was a very moving and humbling experience, as I am sure all other members will agree. However, in the current political climate, this is not something we can just do once and forget about. I believe it is of the utmost importance that we continue to state and demonstrate our genuine respect for the traditional people of this country.

At the end of the twentieth century it is time we got the reconciliation process right. The prosperity and wealth of Australia today has been achieved at the expense of the ongoing suffering and dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for that we owe an enormous debt and apology to Aboriginal people. Embracing indigenous culture, traditions and their flag is something all Australians should be proud to do. One important gesture we can make to demonstrate our commitment here to the process of reconciliation is to fly the flag of indigenous Australians in this chamber.

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